Hope in Orange County, TX

January 10, 2018

Written by HFI Reservist: Dan Collins, Janesville, WI

IMG 5836In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hope Force International [HFI] has had an on-going presence is Texas. I have had the privilege of serving three times with different crews. I hesitate to use the word “crews” because HFI is like family to me. It starts with the training which emphasizes the “ministry of presence” and it continues with the hands-on learning that occurs during deployments. In fact, the deployments are really just opportunities for discipleship training. We quickly learn that if our motivation to deploy is anything other than serving Jesus, we likely will be one and done. We are taught to see the image of Jesus in every person we meet, such that it becomes a joy to serve them in any way possible.  We also learn that before we can be useful to those we serve, we need to first love each other. That is what makes HFI deployments so special.

The Texas deployment in December was about 3 months after the flooding.  By then, Hurricane Harvey was a forgotten news story for most Americans. Not so for the residents of Orange County. The devastation there is an on-going day-to-day reality. I was again reminded that government disaster relief through FEMA and other government agencies barely scratches the surface of need for disaster victims. Many families are still living in tents or cars on their flooded properties. Some other people have moved back into their homes even though the walls, flooring and cabinetry are literally not there. Many have no appliances.

IMG 5811In the midst of this suffering, Jesus is doing some amazing things. HFI has been coordinating much of its efforts in Orange County with Pastor Skipper at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Skipper is a wonderful, humble man. He and his wife have five young children. Their home was flooded and is still uninhabitable. They are staying in a trailer parked on the church property. Their church is just a small, rural congregation, but it has been the center for the distribution of food, clothing and living supplies to local residents. The day we arrived, Skipper had just finished giving hundreds of grills to families who still have no appliances. He was also delivering portable heaters to those families living in tents.

Skipper and his wife have committed their lives to Jesus and are allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them to serve anyone who has a need. They defer any attention they might receive to Jesus and his glory. Everything they provide to people has been donated. They serve everyone; no questions asked. Skipper believes that Jesus commands us to love God and love people. God loves every human being and calls us to serve them all. Skipper serves Christians, atheists, homosexuals, drug-users, Muslims and everyone in-between. This is discipleship 101. For many of those served, this is their first exposure to the unconditional love and grace of Jesus. It brings joy to my heart to see the Lord at work.

IMG 5803Our HFI crew was there to begin rebuilding a home for a single woman named Charlotte. She has a 32 year-old paraplegic daughter and a 12 year-old granddaughter living with her. Charlotte works as a clerk at an insurance agency, and like most folks, she had no flood insurance and had never experienced a flood. We replaced floor joists, put in a new sub-floor and flooring. We also installed drywall and widened doorways to make each room wheelchair accessible.

It was unusually cold in Texas while I was there. We even had a dusting of snow one night. None of it stuck on the roads, but they cancelled school for the day “just in case”. Being a Wisconsinite, I had a good chuckle about that.  God bless you all.

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