Piece of plywood with a reference to Hebrews 12:2 sits atop a water-damaged sink in the front yard of a Houston family’s home.
Piece of plywood with a reference to Hebrews 12:2 sits atop a water-damaged sink in the front yard of a Houston family’s home.

Finding Hope Amidst Devastation: Reflections from Hurricane Relief

by Claire Holstead

Nearly one month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in eastern Texas, I had the opportunity to be part of an APU Action Team, sent out by APU’s Center for Student Action. We arrived in Houston, ready to do whatever was asked of us. We hoped our call to serve would be met with fruitful experiences to remember for a lifetime. Partnering with Antioch Community Church in Pearland, we aided in their efforts to help families, churches, and others impacted by the devastation of the hurricane.

Scheduled to be on the ground in Texas for an intense 24 hours, we woke on Saturday morning tired from travel but energized to serve. After breakfast, we drove to the church and met with the family pastor, Matt Bonow, who welcomed us with open arms and a spirit of gratefulness as he thanked us for spending our weekend serving those affected by such a terrible natural disaster.

Bonow spoke to our team about the gravity of the situation and the posture we should take when approaching the homes and families of those impacted. “Act as though you are walking into someone’s funeral, someone who you don’t know,” he said.

Driving around the community of Houston, our team saw street after street with large piles of trash, furniture, and building materials lining the curbsides—the devastation of the hurricane was made real to us.

Finally, our team arrived at the home of a family whose lives were forever changed by the hurricane. The front yard held piles of flooring, sheetrock, furniture, and valuables that were beginning to rot from water damage. From the outside, the home appeared beautiful with its stone and brick exterior, but upon entry, we realized that it was just a shell of what it once was—a place of comfort, rest, and safety for this family of seven. Now, the house lay in shambles. All items safe to keep were shoved to the center of each room, but around them lay the bare bones of a structure they used to call home.

My team spent Saturday cleaning out nails left in the studs of the home, removing staples that once held carpet in place, clearing sheetrock that had yet to be swept from the floors, carrying water-damaged furniture and valuables to the curb, and more. The labor was hard, but it was worth it to witness the spirit of the family we helped—they held onto God’s promise of provision in the midst of the chaos. In their front yard was a large piece of plywood with a reference to Hebrews 12:2 written out for all to see, a symbol of their faith despite their circumstance.

We wrapped up our day of service by singing a worship song in the middle of their living room—with vaulted ceilings, our praises echoed throughout the rest of the house. In that moment, God’s presence became so tangible. With tears in our eyes and smiles on our faces, we received a word of prayer from the family and hugged all seven of them on our way to our trucks.

We were on the ground in Houston for only 24 hours, but in those hours we helped build a family up, while tearing their house apart. We worshiped God for His blessings and provision, especially upon the family in their time of great need. The experience left our hearts full and yet aching for all still in need of recovery. We know He hears our collective cries and draws close to the broken-hearted.

If you would like to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, the Center for Student Action is collecting donations. Please choose “Hurricane Harvey Relief” under the “Action Team” tab to ensure your donations are properly collected.

Claire Holstead ’17 is an editorial intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a communication studies major and leadership minor.