As Hurricane Harvey was closing in on my hometown of New Caney, Texas, I nervously kept watch on the news and in my social media newsfeed.
As what would become the single largest rainfall in US history descended upon my town with clay and sand soils surrounded by lakes, rivers, and tributaries, suddenly my news feeds filled up with:
“My cousin and his wife and two kids are on their roof off Scott Gardener Road! Can somebody go get them?”
“Red Bud Road the water is past the rooves, anybody got a boat?”
“IdleWilde is filling up fast, I need someone to go with me to get people out of there…”
My children wondered why I just sat at the breakfast table and cried.
By the time David got home, I already had a plan in action.
We were going to Texas.
*Thank you to the McCleod family for loaning us the RV!
I had an RV borrowed and Bolay had already agreed to pay for the cost of Believe With Me’s fuel. I knew many of my Believe With Me friends (our non profit organization to help families of the fallen) would be eager to monetarily donate towards the devastation so I let everyone know that 100% of all monies raised were going directly to help Harvey victims.
Three days of driving with 15 kids.
*Unloading at the local Salvation Army drops off zone. The National Guard and the Army and the Salvation Army were doing an incredible work!
It took us three days to get there and when we arrived, long time school friend Allen Rhoden and his sweet wife showed us the worst of the devastation. (Allen is also an incredible cook–his BBQ is BAR NONE.) The waters had all receded and Texans were busy getting the mud and muck out of their homes. The worst hit areas of the towns we visited were those where people were living in trailer homes and prefabricated structures. These dwellings were moved from their foundations, swept up into trees, end over end turned upside down and every belonging of theirs was strewn among the trees throughout the neighborhood.
They had lost everything.
The house you see off in the distance was once on the foundation directly in front of Judson.
*Miles and miles of this all across East Texas!
We went door to door that first afternoon asking what was needed, passing out water donated by Cheney Brothers. Most said they didn’t need anything (!) and thank you for the water. But I noticed they were looking for SOMETHING to put what they could salvage their few belongings in.
I stayed awake all night. Images of their losses haunted me, and the responsibility to my donors to spend the money on something worthwhile was weighing on me. We had trekked more than halfway across the country and donations were still filing in.
That morning we went to church and David suggested some sort of gift box. All throughout the sermon (sorry Pastor Kurt! We were still listening!) David, the girls and I scribbled notes back and forth about what to put in the bins. By lunchtime, we had a plan.
Y’all, it takes quite a bit to spend over $10,000 at Walmart.
*this photo encompasses only half of what we took home on one haul. There were several shopping trips this huge!
But because of your generosity, we did it!
Ransom was exhausted by about our 8th trip to Walmart and it got to the point that Vaughn would cry every time we pulled up to the store– knowing an epic shopping trek was about to begin again! Poor baby!
Each bin contained:
A Blanket (nice soft fleece one…Ransom inspected and decided these would be best!)
A Towel (all of the above were color coordinated!)
Paper Goods: toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, plastic cups, cutlery
Bug Spray and a 10 pound bag of ant killer (mosquitoes were crazy and ants had been forced out of their homes so they were busy building everywhere and biting like mad.)
Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant
And we bought school supplies for 50 children which we donated to a local school after we realized most of the homes we visited did not have elementary aged children.
*My lifelong friends, the Joslins, gave us a home to stay in, fed us much of the time we were there, and a crew of trucks and guys to help us give out the bins! THANK YOU!
We were able to give these bins to hundreds of families! What mattered more than what was in the bins was when they heard that people from all over the country had donated to give to Houston. That we had driven from Florida to give help and encouragement. Most just wanted to tell their stories and be heard. MANY tried to tell us that people “down the way had it worse, go give to them…” and I would just point towards my big black van and tell them that the lady driving (Daly Kay) was my boss and I had to give one set to each family. Don’t make her yell at me! They’d smile and say they had a boss like that too and sure they’ll take one so I don’t get into trouble.
We wound up making a “hurri-cation” out of it and stayed in Texas until Irma had passed. I’m thankful to report we have very little damage after the storm (basically just a fence to repair!) and we are grateful to our friends and neighbors that prepped our home while we were away!
Thank you for #believeingwithme! Thank you for going with us and being the hands and feet of Jesus! Thank you for your generosity, prayers, and shares on social media! It was an incredible opportunity to walk by faith, give sacrificially, and get to love on those who were hurting because of such disaster! YOU ALL helped do that!
And to find out more about what we are doing with our non-profit organization, go to BelieveWithMe.com. Christmas is coming and you DON’T want to miss that!