I want to mention, before the main part of my post, the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush this past week. She lived here in Houston, and the funeral was here, so we have been especially aware of her life and passing. And the comments are overwhelmingly positive, for good reason.
image from CBS News
Funerals at my church tend to be somewhat celebratory, especially when the deceased has lived a good and full life. I watched a recording of Barbara Bush’s funeral and found that it was that kind of event. People told stories—most of them funny, because she had that natural gift—and there were few tears and no regrets. It was lovely. The recording is available on Facebook: here.
Facebook was filled with collections video clips showing her humor and caring nature. I especially enjoyed a personal note posted by my friend Leah Christie, founder of Not On This Watch, about the time she wouldn’t accept the then-Vice-President’s wife’s check, and how the great Enforcer handled that. Worth the read: here.
The other story for today is follow-up to Hurricane Harvey. It has been eight months now. If you don’t live around Houston, maybe you’re not aware, but there are still thousands of people not back in their homes—2160 households still in hotels or temporary housing, according to NPR. And there are thousands more back in homes without all the repairs done, still waiting for flooring, drywall, cabinets, painting, etc.
Last month, during spring breaks around the country, youth groups traveled here to put up drywall and anything else they could do. Some were staying the week, living out of the church I go to one night a week for music jams. It’s touching to see that people still care. The need is less evident now than it was last August and September, but it’s still there.
But this week, one house, symbolic for many of us of the eventual return to normal, the Houston Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is ready for our return.
|Water at the front door of the Houston Temple|
after Hurricane Harvey
image from here
|The "lake" in front of the Houston Temple|
is actually Champions Forest Drive
photo by Robert Boyd
During the Tax Day Flood of 2016, Cypress Creek, in the Northwest Houston suburb of Spring, flooded the area around the temple. Water came up to the doors of an ancillary building, and it looked like a lake in the front, but the temple—built several feet above ground level—was safe. But there’s a big difference between 15 inches of rain and 60 inches of rain, which we got in Hurricane Harvey. After two steady days of downpour, nearby church members went by kayak to inspect the building, and water was about a foot over the front door level. That meant the interior was flooded.
|Oxen in the baptistry|
image from the book Gift of Love:
The Houston Texas Temple, p. 88
The baptistry is on that level, and by tradition a baptismal font must be below the ground—to symbolize the death and resurrection of Christ. So there is actually a below ground level in the temple, unusual around here. The whole basement was filled. The twelve Oxen, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel, along with the font, like a small pool, were submerged. And there was another foot of water on the whole level. There’s a kitchen/break room on that floor, waiting rooms, changing rooms, rest rooms, the entry desk, security, and a first-aid room. As with so many other buildings, that meant removing all the drywall, any non-permanent flooring, all the furniture, art, equipment—just everything. All needed gutting, mucking out, and rebuilding.
It was about two weeks before people could get inside to inspect and start the recovery process, just like so many other people in their homes. Around that time, one of the temple presidency members talked with us. He and his wife, in their 70s, also had their own home flood. So they managed that move-out, muck-out, and recovery at the same time, and also helped other people in similar circumstances. This dear man told us that he knew for a fact that his wife’s faith is so strong, that it could have prevented the flood waters from breaching the temple. But the Lord seemed to be saying, “I know what you’re going through.” And that sharing of our griefs and carrying our sorrows was part of what needed to happen at this time.
So we’ve been waiting anxiously to return to the Lord's house.
Yesterday the building was rededicated in a small, private ceremony, making it a sacred place yet again following the repairs. Today was a training day for workers. My husband and I volunteer one afternoon a week, so we were there for that today. The temple opens for work again tomorrow.
|It's good to be back.|
Word to those getting ready to attend for the first time since rededication: there’s a new painting just inside the door of the upstairs women’s dressing room, of baby Moses being discovered in the river, that is so beautiful, it was the most memorable thing I noticed. Just, wow!
When a temple is located in a community, that’s a good thing—not just for the people who go there. Good things just happen. Housing prices rise. Good people are attracted to the community, people who help out in the community. Strong families get stronger. There’s a positive influence that emanates out from the temple.
You might say, when God lives in his house in the neighborhood, the whole neighborhood is better off. He’s a good neighbor to have. Having His house restored now, after eight long months, makes many of us feel like the end is in sight for the Harvey hardships.
I hope people continue to pray for those still in the midst of their recovery. If there was any good that came out of the epic flood, it’s that people care about each other. Their love and sacrifice, often for people they don’t even know, is a true sign of civilization. We Houstonians are grateful.