Helpers came in many forms to rescue Texans in Harvey’s wake. In the beginning, they were Texans helping Texans, however, with the arrival of the Cajun Navy we quickly transitioned into Americans helping Americans. We all sat in horror as we watched our friends being rescued from their rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters and wept tears of joy as we watched caravans of police cars from across the country come in to relieve our exhausted first responders.
It was a different type of caravan that descended on St Luke’s UMC. Red Cross volunteers from almost every state, including Alaska, met at the Texas state line in their ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicle) to hand out water, hot meals and other supplies to Texans who had lost everything. Friday night, September 1, St. Luke’s welcomed 113 ERV drivers who had driven for days to help us. These men and women were tired, dirty and hungry when they arrived. Members of our staff and congregation met them at the door with a smile, a shower and shelter. The one ingredient missing was a warm meal, however, within minutes two members of our congregation came through the door asking how they could help. When they discovered there was not a hot meal for the Red Cross volunteers they left and quickly returned with 20 pizzas and snacks to feed our guests.
It was not long before we saw Christ at work again when the stack of towels provided by the Red Cross ran out with dozens of volunteers still in need of a shower, within minutes a text came over from a member of The Story Houston asking how she could help. Before the next guest headed to the showers, cars pulled up to the Fellowship Hall dropping off stacks of towels. Tom would tell us there are no coincidences and Christ’s presence was obvious at every turn.
As the Red Cross volunteers returned from the showers, St. Luke’s volunteers offered to provide laundry service. Forty members of our congregation signed up to pick up laundry every morning and return it every afternoon. Our guests could not believe people would actually offer to do this.
Members from the traditional service, Encounter and The Story Houston all volunteered to provide hot meals at both breakfast and dinner in addition to greeting our guests in the narthex of the Fellowship Hall before they left early each morning and when they returned each evening.
As soon as I-10 opened up to Beaumont a significant number of our ERV drivers left to help our neighbors. On Sunday our Red Cross staff shelter was shuttered for a few hours before receiving the call we had a busload headed our way. Three young men from The Story Houston descended on the Fellowship Hall to refurnish with 100 sanitized cots. At that point, the St. Luke’s shelter transformed to accommodating more transient guests. Each evening as Red Cross volunteers landed at the airport they drove to St. Luke’s to spend the night and await their assignments. These folks ranged from shelter workers, IT professionals, operations managers, nurses and mental health care professionals, many of whom were first time Red Cross volunteers.
Every person who walked through the narthex door commented on St. Luke’s hospitality; the staff and congregation who worked together as the hands and feet of Christ. What a privilege to help these helpers and thank them for coming to Houston to help serve our community.