A little over a year ago I started to hear God speaking to me…. Or rather, I started to listen. I heard just a whisper every once in awhile at first. But over the course of a few months it became quite clear. He was calling me back to Him. It had been over 20 years since I attended church. I still believed and still prayed during that time. But I had fallen away and there were areas of my life that were very broken.
It took me a couple of months to get up the courage to attend Sunday worship at Citylights Church, but when I finally did, it was truly amazing. I have given my life back to Jesus and have accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour. Since then, I’ve made a so many positive changes in my life. I’m learning and growing as a Christian and I’m so blessed to be part of a wonderful church community. I finally feel peace and hope and the love of God. I am a child of God and I am enough.
He still speaks to me and gently nudges me when necessary. And I've learned to listen. Pray. And wait. The Bible says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Daily I ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance and to give me strength. To show me the way… I want to live my life for His glory.
One morning the following September, Jesus spoke again. Quite loudly. With His encouragement and a little boost from a double shot of espresso, I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up to work with Samaritan’s Purse and to help with the flood clean up in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. I booked flights and a rental car and called my sister Sandra who lives with her family in Conroe, just outside of Houston, to let her know I was heading down! During the storm I had prayed hard for their safety and texted her several times a day to see how they were doing. God heard and He answered. They were blessed to have escaped damage… the flood waters amazingly stopped two feet from their front door. You can still clearly see the water mark on the concrete on their front porch.
The day after I arrived, I hopped in my rental car and white-knuckled it clear across that monster of a city to find Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church where Samaritan’s Purse was head quartered. Thank goodness for prayer and GPS or I’d still be driving those eight lanes of traffic going one direction at 65 miles an hour! There is absolutely no room for doubt or error! I wondered a few times what I had gotten myself into but managed to find the church without any difficulties. We had a brief orientation, watched a very moving video about the work done by Samaritans Purse and it’s mission statement and then were divided into teams. There I was blessed to meet Valerie, a lovely lady from North Texas. I absolutely love her energy and her faith in Jesus! She rode along with me (quite brave of her) and in our bright orange t-shirts we set off across South East Houston to our first mud out… the rather appropriate term used to describe the process of gutting a flooded home.
The damage from the storm and the flood waters was beyond description. No words can define the devastation. The loss. Turning off the freeways and into the evacuated areas was almost eerie. The sight of street after street lined with wet, dirty and molding mountains of debris that once made up the homes of the flood victims was very disturbing. Texas heat and Houston humidity made quick work of rotting everything. Some of the homes had been abandoned and some were condemned as the flood waters had completely submersed them. So heartbreaking.
We met up with the team leaders and were geared with gloves, masks and safety glasses and assigned tasks. We worked in that smothering Texas heat for the rest of the day… Pulling wheelbarrows full of soaking wet belongings, clothes, drywall, insulation, doors and appliances out of the home of a dear older lady who had unfortunately drowned. Her poor family. They had laid her to rest two days earlier and were now watching her home being gutted and piled up on the front lawn. So much loss. So much sorrow. We did what we could to be a little light in such a dark time… at the end of the day we stood in a circle around them and prayed for God’s strength and love to bring them peace and healing and comfort.
The next few days I worked with the Woodlands Church Disaster Relief team. The church is only 15 minutes from my sister's so I was able to spend less time on those crazy freeways and more time helping out! I joined a group that included several rather polished looking ladies. Kudos to them for rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty - real dirty to share the love and hope of Jesus and help out a dear couple named Pete and Catherine. He was blind and she had very little mobility as she had just had knee surgery. Their home had been flooded the year before and was not even fully repaired when Harvey hit. So sad. But they were in amazingly good spirits and it was so rewarding to help them out and pray with them. We all went home tired and sweaty but with very full hearts.
My sister Sandra and I also put in an afternoon working at a huge warehouse with Woodlands Interfaith Church to sort through mountains of donated clothes and items that were to be dispersed to the homeowners. I was able to participate in the sharing of these donated items at Miss B’s where we did a final cleanup. We pulled hundreds of nails and did a thorough sweeping so the gutted home could be sprayed with a chemical called Shockwave, that kills mold and fungus. It was so beautiful to see her faith, her hope and her gratitude as we unloaded a van full of clothes and household goods and stacked the supplies in her garage while a bobcat scraped up the remains of her house and belongings and dumped it all into two large garbage trucks.
Working with these wonderful groups of people from all over Texas and other parts of the US that came together to help in Jesus’ name. To minister. To work. To care. We were reminded that most people had storms in their lives already. The loss and devastation of the flood could very well be a breaking point. So we prayed. We hugged. Offered a kind word. And sometimes even just an encouraging smile. It was really an incredible experience to share the light and hope and love of Jesus and to serve Him and those people in need.
God has given me strength and energy and I feel so blessed to have been able to share these gifts and be part of these ministries. I would’ve stayed for a month if I could have and will absolutely do this work again. I highly encourage this type experience for everyone. There are so many different ways to help and to minister… we all have something to give. We all have a little light… let’s shine it and share it.