Several months have passed since Hurricane Harvey made landfall…
or should I say, started making landfall! As you will remember, it made landfall near Rockport, backed up, scooted along the coast and headed toward Louisiana flooding everything between, including parts of Houston.
Speed ahead to March 9-24, and you would have seen hundreds of women converging on the Sagemont Church Annex and tents were popping up out near The Cross. What in the world is going on? Let’s take you back and fill in the gap of what the churches of our area have been up to since Harvey arrived.
As you can imagine, all the churches were involved someway in the cleanup process. Groups from all over America came to the flooded areas to help tear out sheetrock and haul all the wet belongings to the streets. The hardest-hit lived just south of Sagemont where some homeowners literally swam to their roofs to get out of the water until first responders could rescue them in boats. Houses were in shambles. Families were displaced. Churches were trying to help.
For weeks the churches worked on homes. Besides all the food and supplies distributed by Sagemont, our volunteers cleared 619 homes. Other churches did all they could. People were hurting physically. People were hurting emotionally. People were hurting spiritually. And when the pace began to slow down, the ministers of twenty-two area churches began to meet with one prayer! “LORD, what do You want us to do next?”
Most of the churches were struggling to make repairs on their own buildings. Sagemont lost the use of 27,000 square feet. It canceled our contemporary service in The Hall, the use of the original first building that we had renamed the Legacy Room, the use of the offices in the first building we built debt-free, the kitchen, the Wednesday night meals, the youth activities in the gym, meeting areas for the Hispanic ministry, meeting areas for the youth, weekday activities, the printing room and as you can tell by now, many more things than I can list here. Other churches were in the same soaking mess. Insurance companies were slow to finalize repairs. Churches were dealing with the smell that permeated their entire buildings. Mold was growing! How could the churches help when they were struggling to repair their own properties and continue being a harbor of safety for the souls of the area, a place of worship of the One True God, and a time of rest from the world and all its trouble as they sang praises to the LORD Who heals and brings peace in the midst of the storm? As ministers, all we could do was pray and wait! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is pray and wait. When you do not have a way to do what you want, wait until the LORD provides for what He wants. And that we did!
Along the way, we met with Steve Tybor, the President and Co-founder of Eight Days of Hope out of Mississippi. Steve Tybor is amazing. He resides in Tupelo, Mississippi. His wife of 33 years, Charmaine, and their five children, Stephen, Zachary, Hannah, Elise and Emma have lived in the south for the past 18 years since moving from Buffalo, New York. Hannah serves as a Junior Ambassador with Eight Days of Hope. Steve spent over 30 years in the building material industry and recently served as a vice president and business manager with ProVia. Steve left the business world on January 1st, 2017 to become the Executive Director for Eight Days of Hope. Steve and Charmaine have partnered with Global Outreach as full-time missionaries as a way to make this happen. He is a Sunday school teacher and a Deacon at First Baptist Church in Tupelo. He also has a passion for Christian Contemporary Music and has been a volunteer leader at the Kingdom Bound Christian Music Festival in upstate New York for 24 years.
What does Eight Days of Hope do? Steve, as one of the co-founders of the organization, hit the ground running twelve years ago with a rapid response group. What was meant to be a one-time visit to the Gulf Coast with a handful of people after Hurricane Katrina has blossomed into one of the greatest rapid response group of this generation. Thousands of volunteers have now joined Eight Days of Hope in Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Irene, Isaac, the floods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Nashville, Tennessee, Black River South Carolina and the tornadoes in Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama. Through all their efforts, their goal was to “Love and Serve those in need!”
Along the way, Eight Days of Hope also became a disaster recovery group. As the LORD provided, they would bring thousands of volunteers into a disaster area and help rebuild the homes of people who could not afford to make the repairs. Eight Days of Hope offered these projects for free. Think of that! The volunteers pay their own way to come work at no cost to the homeowners and the repairs were made at no cost. A strict process is used to determine the needs of the homeowners. Eight Days of Hope focuses on those who were hit with catastrophic damage not covered by insurance or federal assistance.
Eight Days of Hope was here when Harvey hit! Their volunteers who came from all over the United States assisted all the churches in the area to help with rescue and cleanout. Their leadership was so moved that they volunteered to gather their forces and return this March to help rebuild homes of folks who had no way to rebuild themselves. The ministers of the churches began to organize, and a group was formed called 4BResponse. The name came from the borders of the area this group would serve. Its boundaries were the Beltway to the Beach and the Bay to Brazoria County. Thus, the name 4B. Here, locally, 4BResponse became the clearing house for all the hurricane-damaged homes that the churches in their records. All the lists were combined. Calls were made. Homes were evaluated. Homes were inspected. Rebuild packages were offered. Arrangements were made. But where was the money going to come from?
Beau Egert emerged out of the group as a leader in raising the money for the rebuild. You may not recognize the name, but he is a part of one of the iconic Sagemont families. He is the son-in-law of Larry Dyke, the artist. Beau was able to negotiate large donations from the Moody Foundation, Rebuild Houston and Samaritan’s Purse. In just a few days, the money was in place and the plans began to develop.
Different churches took different parts of the project and Sagemont was willing to do what it could to help. Right off the bat the logistics of sleeping arrangements became evident and Eight Days of Hope found a location for all the men down at the old Mall of the Mainland in Texas City, but they needed a place for the women. We received the call. They were expecting about 300 women who needed a place to bed down and about 40 families that wanted to camp. We said yes!
The call went out for volunteers though the efforts of Eight Days of Hope. As of March 9, 2018, there were 4696 volunteers headed to Houston from 47 states.
Over at the Sagemont Church Annex, for more than two weeks, things were popping. Women camped in almost all of the rooms. It was so amazing and so much fun. There are six showers in the building, but as you can imagine, they were not enough. A shower trailer was brought in and placed at the end of the porch. Teams from Eight Days manned the doors, and everything went smoothly. In addition, just past The Cross on the grassy areas in the parking lot, tents began to pop up. Except for
a few extremely windy days in March, all went well.
You might wonder, “How do you feed such a multitude?” Well, we did not have the luxury of feeding almost 5,000 folks with seven loaves and two fishes, but we did have a group of cooks who fed them all, three meals a day. We are thankful to Grace Community Church which opened its doors as a place for the cooks to stay and prepare the meals. How many homes were repaired in this effort? The number is not finalized at the time of writing this article, but we can safely say more than 700.
What an amazing testimony to the grace of our LORD! “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Thank you, LORD, and thanks to all the volunteers from here and everywhere!