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Rebuilding After The Storm

My experience through the Harvey storm was very emotional. We had to protect our home through the 4 days of 24hr rain praying nothing would happen but also knowing that we could lose everything.

I remember at one point about day two that I was standing in about 5 inches of water saying “this is NOT ok, we are NOT going to lose everything, and we are NOT going to start over again!” But I also had a comfort knowing that we’ve started over before and we were ok. I think I just didn’t want to do it so quickly after the first time. I was very torn about it all. Mad about the water rising but comforted knowing that we could face whatever challenge and still be ok. There were times when I was confident, then times when my fear was overtaking me. I knew though, that through it all, Kirk had my back and that God had both of us.

At one point when the bay crested the wall at our apartment, both Kirk and I knew that we had lost the battle. Prior to this point, we spent 24 hours in shifts wearing rain gear cleaning out the water drains in the apartment courtyard helping the large amounts of rain to drain and then when we got a break in the rain, we would quickly squeegee the standing water into the drains. We took shifts doing this and it seemed to be working pretty well for us. We also had these quick damns that we bought a couple months back that we put by our door to keep out the water and they were holding up too. But, when the bay started coming in, we couldn’t fight that amount of water. I remember going out and just looking across the water thinking “we lost.”

I messaged my mother who lives in Idaho but is familiar with the Gulf Coast because she lived here for over 20 years. I just asked her if she could pray that the bay would recede, that we’ll be ok if the bay would stay back. I knew she was praying. We hadn’t lost power and could watch the news of all the devastation going on around us. The high water boat rescues, the people stranded, cars floating away and people’s homes all but destroyed. I felt bad for a moment. I thought my prayers were selfish and greedy. I hadn’t even been praying for anything else but myself and my family. But then I thought how many people just restarted their lives like we did recently? Not that I was justifying my “selfish” prayers, but thinking it’s not selfish at all to pray for your family, I should have been doing it all along.

The next morning we went out early to look at the bay and it had receded, our home was saved and the rain stopped. We were at peace. The only thing our family lost was Mike’s car got completely flooded, but he was safe. It’s just a car. We continued to watch the news and realized we couldn’t really drive more than about 2 miles each way around our apartment due to closed roads. We had food and water so we were ok, but we were feeling the need to go out. Bailey and I took a drive and found a pizza place open and serving pizza! We bought 2 pizzas and took them home feeling like hunters and gatherers. It was a great day for us. People around the apartment were telling us throughout the storm that we were wasting our time by doing what we were doing and working so hard, but with our hard work, we lost nothing. We have 4 buildings in our apartment complex, building A, B, C and D. We live in C and it was the only building that no flood damage occurred in. I think our hard work paid off!

After the roads started opening back up and we were able to reach our church we found a group of us standing around for a moment asking ourselves what we could do. We started receiving calls after calls of trucks bringing in supplies and wanting to drop them at our church. We were blessed because our church sustained zero damage and was located in one of the hardest hit areas in South Houston. Within a day our pastor asked me to help organize the relief efforts and help other women in the church put together a distribution site there at our church. For the next 7 days, it was CRAZY! Hundreds of boxes were delivered from all over the state. Food, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, baby items, and diapers and so much more just kept rolling in. It was so wonderful to be a part of the recovery. But the real recovery was sitting out in the neighborhoods just ready to be reached.

Driving down the impacted neighborhoods was emotional. I felt like I was in a third world country. To see everyone’s belongings out in their yards, sheetrock, flooring and everything else was almost too much to take in. We had a friend that went to our church that took in about 3 feet of water so a crew and I from our church went and helped gut her house. She was so happy to see us. She was smiling and laughing the whole time. But…she lost everything, how could she be laughing and smiling? She was rescued from her rooftop just 4 days before this, how can she be so happy? Because she loves the Lord and trusts him to rebuild. Did she cry and feel like everything was falling apart? Yes, she did…but she also trusted the Lord to help her get through this. It reminded me of us. And I knew she’d be ok.

All of the destruction reminded me of our lives in Dec 2015. Everything we knew to be right and good was taken in one day.  We fought and fought to maintain normal but we couldn’t. We needed to realize that in order for new to be formed, the old had to be destroyed. I wished it didn’t have to happen the way it did, but it did. We cried and felt like everything was falling apart but it didn’t. Just like these homes, the foundation was still there…and the foundation of our marriage and calling were still there. We just had to tear out what was damaged and allow new to be rebuilt. It’s painful, time-consuming, hard and sometimes you feel like you’ve gotten nowhere, but we have. We felt in our lives that people were oftentimes driving by our lives and staring at all our destroyed junk out on our lawns of our lives. But, just like most of these people who had volunteers stop and help them, so did we. We found a new pastor that stopped and helped with the cleanup of our lives. We had friends that stopped and help and now we have those same people and new friends who are currently helping us to rebuild.  

This storm, Harvey, made me realize that new is always on the horizon and that scripture Psalm 30:1–12 fit this situation, that even in the night when all things look bad, the morning brings newness. We are living in that newness and look forward to see what God has in store for us.

Kirk and Stephanie Clawson are currently doing ministry work in Houston, TX. They are immersed in combating the injustices of sex trafficking and the exploitation of young womn and men in Houston and Galveston. They work to bring salvation in Christ and justice into brothels, cantinas, strip clubs and the streets of TX.

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