As the team rolled into the devastated areas of South Texas, we knew the task ahead of us would be intense. The flooding and winds had literally overturned homes, left boats miles away from their original locations, uprooted massive trees, and tore down bridges and highways. The sight was unimaginable and our hearts were touched at the sight of the devastation even before we had the chance to go to work. Without question, the next 72 hours would change us all.
Though the restoration process was obviously going to take months for the cities affected, we were all quite amazed at how few helpers had moved into the area to provide assistance. Paul and Sandy Golden noted, "It seemed like everyone was eager to help Galveston the first two weeks while the media was present, but now, the help seems to be growing less and less, despite the immense devastation down here." Paul and Sandy, as well as their congregation, had been working 12-16 hour days cleaning rubbish from the homes of families hit so hard by the storm. Needless to say, they were working non-stop despite fatigue and our presence was a boost of much needed support and energy. Knowing their tireless efforts gave our team a feeling of confidence, knowing that we were on a timely mission of hope, desperately needed.
On day one, we hit the ground running at dusk with our team of 20 men and women heading out to repair roofs of homes in Alvin, TX. We went to work and were able to remove trees, fix roofs, and clean up debrit for 12 homes. At each home, we were able to provide a word of encouragement, prayer and even food and books to inspire future hope. We worked sunup to sundown and the EMPact team was resilient and determined to help as many as possible.
Day two brought us a much different list of jobs to tackle. We went to an area of Galveston where homes were completely destroyed, flooded and filled with mud, mold and ruined clothing and furniture. Most of the homeowners had no insurance and were wandering the streets, some looking for food and clothing in piles of rubbish. We tackled the interior demo of two homes. Due to the dangerous circumstances within the home, each of our team had to wear masks, gloves and special protection to avoid interaction with the mold and contaminants of the area. The homes had to be stripped to the frames due to the mold and water damage, and as you can imagine, the homeowners felt a sense of total loss and hopelessness.
The first home belonged to a precious woman named, Lille Mae. She had just returned to her home for the first time to see the unbelievable devastation. Lille Mae was 83 years old and sitting on the porch crying when we arrived. We went to her immediately to tell her we had come to help. She looked at me and said, "It's hurts so bad. I've lost it all." After a few moments of loving on her, I began to sing a song she knew very well called, "It is well with my soul." She sang with me and began to smile. As the day wore on, she continued to talk about a box she prayed could be recovered. She said it carried birth certificates and important papers that dated back to her father's lifetime. As two of the men were clearing out the wet and soppy furniture and home items, John, one of our team leaders, found a box sitting on top of a pile of drenched clothes. Despite the flood around it, that box was totally untouched by the storm and wouldn't you know it, that was the one box Ms. Lille Mae was praying to retrieve. From that moment forward, hope began to be restored and her joy started to return.
As we worked on Lillie Mae's home, as well as her daughter's home that day, we were able to connect with her granddaughter, Freelonda, who has become one of EMwomen's EMbassadors for that area of restoration. We will continue to work with her as she helps us identify more families we can help in the future.
With such labor intensive jobs, we were only able to finish two homes that day. We stripped them bare and bleached the studs to prevent further mold damage. Needless to say, we were exhausted by the end of the day and our bodies were sore from the labor. Despite our physical weariness, our hearts were abounding with joy to know that we had touched families so deeply and given them hope for the future. At each of the homes we worked on, we left the homeowner with a bible provided by Samartin's Purse, signed by each of the team members. It was amazing to see the gratitude and joy those bibles brought as they served as hope for the future and a remembrance of the love shown that day.
On our third day we headed to a little town called Freddieville where we would meet another EMwomen EMbassador named Olivia. Her town was 12 feet under water in some places and many of the homes would just have to be completely demolished. We handed out over 300 bags of food, ice, and water to the families there. One group of families, 23 individuals in all, were living in an old trailer. The conditions were unbelievable. Some of the families were rummaging through the dump piles looking for anything they could eat, sale or salvage from other families. Not only were we able to provide nourishment and sustenance to these families, but our introduction to Olivia could very well mean the salvation of that little town. She has stepped up to lead an initiative with EMwomen and Light Christian Center to rebuild that community and bring change to those desperate families.
The day ended as we headed back to the worst areas of Galveston to hand out hot turkey legs, ice, water and over 250 backpacks to children.
Though our trip is finished and we are headed back to our homes, the job is by no means complete. To leave without looking back or heading back would be a travesty. That is why we are arranging another EMPact Team to head back to the Galveston area soon. The list of families needing help are already in hand. Now we need laborers, financial support and aid sent to help with the next mission. If you would like to be on the next team, I guarantee it will change your life forever. To put your name on the list for a future mission, email us at EMpact@emwomen.com
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Not only were we able to provide immediate help and aid on this trip, but we were also able to connect with hundreds of women who can continue to receive support through EMcommunity. Our connections with the select EMbassadors in the areas will help us continue our follow-up process with the folks we reached and hopefully empower them to live their best life now.
We ask that you please consider supporting the future efforts of EMpact Disaster Relief Team as we continue to build a network of men and women passionately dedicated to serving others in need through relief efforts and restoration.
Together, we ARE making a difference!
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