I’ve spent the last four out of five weeks in the disaster area of Texas sleeping on a 3-inch foam cushion on the floor located in a Sunday school classroom of a gutted out church in southeast Texas. This church was flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
The following is what has transpired since leaving my beloved community of Columbus on Sept. 24.
I arrived in Houston on Sept. 25 and met with the senior police chaplain for the Houston area immediately upon my arrival. Sgt. Mike Evans drew a mental word picture and showed maps while speaking to me about the magnitude of damage southeast Texas sustained during Hurricane Harvey. The vastness of the area is mind boggling.
At the end of our half-hour conversation, Evans told me that Houston, though receiving 45 inches of rain, would survive. He then encouraged me to go on to Orange and Jefferson counties. There, most businesses and homes were either partially or completely destroyed by floods brought on by rain.
I prayed and asked God for guidance, and the next day believed I was to head to the city of Orange to set up what would be my base of operations while in the area.
Orange, I learned, is a city of about 25,000 residents including the neighboring communities of West Orange and Pinehurst. It is two hours east of Houston and received 52 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey.
I also went to Beaumont, population 120,000, which received 49 inches, and Port Arthur, population 55,000, which received 47 inches.
Though the cities of Orange and Beaumont were heavily flooded, Port Arthur, with an elevation of 6 feet above sea level, had been totally under water.
The first person I met in the city of Orange was a Nazarene church pastor whose parsonage was totally flooded and church mostly flooded. It was this pastor who welcomed me to stay and use an upstairs Sunday school classroom as both a place to sleep and as an office to work out of for however long I would need to do so.
During the month I worked in southeast Texas, I saw mile after mile after mile after mile of homes and businesses that were either now abandoned or gutted.
I saw an entire shopping center as it was being bulldozed and other shopping centers that stood as though they belonged in a movie set ghost town.
Though I could see sadness and suffering everywhere I went, I could also see the hand of God at work.
I am on another mission, now. This mission is a different kind of mission for me to undertake, but I willingly accept it with the assurance that God has a God-sized job he wants to accomplish through it.
This is the back story.
I was told about a pastor who lives in Port Arthur and that I should go and pay her a visit. This pastor and her husband own a home that stands 2 feet below sea level and whose back yard borders Sabine Lake. This lake sits alongside the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
I decided, yes, I would go and visit Pastor Maxine, and this is what she told me about what happened during Hurricane Harvey.
She said, when the rain kept coming down and places were flooding, she and her husband decided to open their church, which is 10 miles away, to eventually what would be a total 61 people. Each one was in need of a safe place of refuge until the rain stopped and the flood waters receded.
Some who had come were disabled, others elderly, and yet others had various difficulties. To this day, there are still nine people living at her church because they have nowhere else to go. Their homes are uninhabitable.
Maxine was busy all during the Hurricane preparing food, finding pillows, etc, and seeing to the immediate needs of her church guests, none of whom attended her church. While she was busy doing all of this, her own home was flooding.
It received a total of 2 to 3 feet of water. Raw sewage had entered through the bathroom drains and pipes. Within a few days, black mold was everywhere.
Recently, I heard the question asked, “What is a shepherd?” Pastor Maxine was selfless and saw to it that people she didn’t even know were taken care of during what has been called a 1,000-year disaster. She is the epitome of what a shepherd should be.
What a powerful testimony she has been to a world who needs to see the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ in action. Pastor Maxine gets it.
Because of Hurricane Harvey, what once was a nice comfortable home built in 1962 is now a 3,500 square-foot brick shell with no walls or floors. She said her sister purchased it originally, then her mother got it from her sister and then Maxine got it from her mother and paid it off.
Pastor Maxine has not asked me to do this, but God has laid on my heart to raise funds and launch The Mercy Fund. She has flood insurance but she does not yet know how much money she will receive from it. She said her neighbors are getting very little back from their flood insurance for rebuilding.
It is my hope and prayer that The Mercy Fund will cover what insurance does not cover of her rebuilding costs.
I am asking each company, each business and each individual in our city and surrounding communities to be an angel to a pastor who has been an angel to so many.
Will you prayerfully consider giving a donation to The Mercy Fund? I am starting off by donating the first $1,000. What funds are left will be used to help other pastors in the disaster area who either did not have flood insurance, or, if they did, will not get enough back to cover the rebuilding of their homes.
Send donations to: Hurricane Harvey Relief, 26321 Northwest FWY, No. 200, Cypress, TX 77429.
If there is anyone who can empathize with the people of southeast Texas it is certainly those of us who live in Columbus. Since the flood of 2008, we know exactly what it feels like to experience what Texans are presently experiencing.
Philippians 2:3-5 reminds us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
I am home now. But my heart will remain in Texas for years to come.
Nita Evans of Columbus is owner of Confidential Christian Counseling, focusing her work especially with ministry leaders and their families. She also is a Columbus Police Department chaplain and a national retreat and conference speaker. She can be reached at 812-614-7838 or by visiting specialspeaker.com.