HOUSTON – A dozen members of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College family, in partnership with Canadian Global Response, traveled to Houston for eight days in mid-October to help ease the suffering of Texas residents coping with the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
“Many people here at our school were very concerned for the people of the Texas coast and there was a strong desire to do something to help if possible,” said Director of Development Barry Nelson, who was born in Houston and lived in the area for 30 years. “We watched the Hurricane Harvey news with great concern and our worst fears were realized when we saw pictures of the horrendous flooding.”
“Texas Baptists have given so much to our school in our 30-year history, and we saw an opportunity to give back,” Nelson continued. “I announced in chapel that I was gathering a team for a disaster relief trip and there was a great response, including people who couldn’t go but wanted to give.”
With their airfare paid by donations, and a “reading week” free from the need to attend classes, the team of nine students and three faculty/staff left Oct. 13 and returned Oct. 20.
In Texas they bunked at South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, 20 miles southeast of Houston. A different Sunday School class provided dinner each evening, and “We ate like kings,” said Adam Van Rees, a distance student who lives in Saskatoon.
But the days were long, and the work was challenging.
“Waking up early every day was the hardest part,” said Claudia Obando, wife of a seminary student. “I’m just not used to that, and since we were working hard all day my body was sore, so opening my eyes at 6 a.m. was tough, … and I felt like I was doing a million squats a day, but God showed me daily how we were impacting this family and the church family too.”
Brenda Peacock, wife of a professor, echoed Obando’s words. “We worked very hard each day – I don’t remember ever being that tired before – and yet wishing we could have done more,” Peacock said.
The mission team expected to be involved in demolition, the gutting of waterlogged homes, but instead they did reconstruction, installing drywall and insulation, following the work of previous volunteers with the Texas Baptist Men.
“When I met the homeowner on Sunday, before we even started work on her home, she was so overwhelmed with gratitude she hugged me and didn’t let go, and started crying, so of course I started tearing up too,” Obando said. “Practically speaking, I learned to drywall and tape. That was fun and I’m happy I got to learn those skills, but I also learned how wonderful it is to work with a team that has one goal in mind: ‘Let’s show Jesus’ love through our actions.’”
Student Miranda Ong said she “loved being able to interact with and get to know the Gastons, the family whose house we helped to restore. They were kind and loving people, so grateful that we would come, but it was more a privilege to remind them that God sees them and has not forgotten about them!”
The seminary team worked on two houses, one in Pasadena and one in Deer Park.
“This trip was a constant reminder that God establishes our steps, Proverbs 16:9,” Van Rees said. “It was so evident that God’s sovereign hand was guiding and directing our path.”
“This trip was a solid reminder of the importance of community and how the body of Christ should function,” the Saskatoon-based student continued. “Our rebuild team provided a great illustration of this. Each member was essential in accomplishing our task.”
Peacock continued that thought: “I learned in a tangible way that we believers are all a part of the body of Christ, no matter the geographic location, and when part of that body is hurting we should do what we can to help ease the hurt. Intellectually I knew this, but during this trip I experienced it. We were loved by and showed love to our Christ family, not strangers, just family we hadn’t met yet.”
About the work accomplished, “Even though it maybe did not feel like we did a lot, it sure meant something to the church for us to come down, and especially for the families we helped,” student Carson Maier said.
“I was so pleased with the way the team worked together,” Nelson said. “It was a diverse group of people who didn’t know each other well before the trip started. I couldn’t believe how much we were able to accomplish. Everyone gave their all!”
By Karen L. Willoughby