Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Through the Deep Waters

I’ve been away from Houston the past several days, helping out family, as planned well before Hurricane Harvey. But I’ve been following much of the labor and service and heartache, and I’m so proud of my many friends who are reaching out and putting in one heavy-labor day after another, at no cost—simply because it has to be done, and we Texans have compassion for those in need.

Disaster relief comes in stages: preparation, getting through the storm, rescue, mucking out, and then rebuilding. We’re at the mucking out stage now. In some neighborhoods, enough of that has been done to get trucks in to pick up the debris. In other areas, houses still have standing water, and the owners are still waiting to get inside. The longer that takes, the more damage, sadly.

Anyway, as you might imagine, there’s no hiring enough workers to muck out that many homes, and many homeowners are unable to do the job themselves. That means, if it’s going to get done, it’s volunteers who will do it. And that’s what my friends are doing.

So I’ll just share a few of their images that I’ve borrowed from Facebook. I want to note that Mormon Helping Hands aren’t the only helpers. We’re two percent of the population, and no everyone has the right age and ability for this job. Catholic Charities is working with us, and there are many other organizations and ad hoc community groups doing this messy work. But my access to friends who are doing this is mostly Mormon Helping Hands.

This first group is from my ward (congregation) Monday. Similar groups (including many of the same people) have been mucking out homes since late last week. 

Mormon Helping Hands from Copperfield Ward on Monday
Several friends posted this photo, so I'm guessing and
giving photo credit to Janet Taylor

Here’s another crew coming from my church building. Their regular church building got a lot of water damage, so they'll be sharing our building for some time.

Mormon Helping Hands from Bear Creek and Westlake Wards on Monday.
Photo credit to Melissa Willis

And here’s another crew from a little way north. They were lucky to have President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the First Presidency (a counselor to the Prophet and President of our worldwide Church) show up for services on Sunday—which were short and followed by work crews heading out to assignments. In every way, it was a special Sunday service.

Cypress Stake Center, which had been a command center
for boat rescue, is now a command center for
Mormon Helping Hands. President Uchtdorf
showed up to join them this Sunday.
Photo credit to Mary Moellmer.

If you wonder what mucking out means, it’s tearing out flooring, moving damaged furniture and debris to the curb for pickup, and tearing out damaged drywall from above the flood line so the insides of the walls can dry out completely before rebuilding can be done.
It looks like this.

Photo credit to Derrick Campos, who hasn't been able to get back in
his own house yet, but has spent the waiting time helping other
people do the mucking out. This is the third time his home has
flooded in recent years. Sometimes life isn't fair.
Another photo from Derrick Campos
This is what's happening inside--cutting out drywall.
Another photo from Derrick Campos
Flooring gets removed inside as well.
Photo from Melissa Willis, who had water up
onto the driveway, but her house was spared.
Some friends of mine, the Siebert family, are very talented. Jim Siebert is the meteorologist for the local Fox television station, and he’s the one many of us tuned in to for constant updates during the storm week. His wife, Debbie, is a musician, with a particularly gorgeous voice. They have been doing short Sunday hymn videos for a while—the whole family. They did one this past Sunday. It’s a hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” It’s a common Christian hymn, although I think many churches use a different tune (“Old Hundredth,” I think it’s called). But they do the one from our LDS Hymns. The fourth verse, which we’ve sung all our lives, has taken on new meaning these past couple of weeks:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
The Sieberts used photos from the disaster and cleanup as backdrop to their song. When they get to this verse, they change tempo and tone, which brought the tears when I heard it—for the sorrow of loss so many are feeling, because of literal deep waters; for the generosity and kindness of so many who are helping others in their need; and for the love that we feel from our Father in Heaven, who promises to be with us, our troubles to bless and sanctify.

We’ve said for more than a decade now, when the Lord wants His people to turn to him, He sends a hurricane to the Gulf Coast. Mormon Helping Hands have been active here since 2005, the year of Katrina and Rita. Would that we would all turn to Him without these painful reminders. But bad things happen even to very good people. When they do, our job is to serve God by serving one another.

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