There are few people in my life that I REALLY listen to. My father-in-law is one of them. For those that have met him, the initial reaction to my previous statement may be to laugh. But if you know him, you are aware that he is extremely wise and rarely worries. On Tuesday morning, he called to make sure we were staying home and off the roads. At 8:30, I said we were. By 10, I was done. He was not happy, but I made it safely to 218. As a point of clarification, 218 is the address of the building our church owns. Notice we don’t call the building Ecclesia – Clear Lake. ECL is the people. 218 is the address of the walls where we do ministry.
When we arrived, it was still drizzling outside. The creeks were too high to pass. We were restricted in movement around town. At the same time, we knew that there were needs and we needed to meet them. We began by responding to the calls for supplies at the shelters. We quickly shifted focus to food and water. Hotels had nothing. They were out of food. They did not have enough staff or supplies for the full rooms they were now experiencing. Babies did not have diapers. Kids did not have clothes. Day 4 was spent meeting needs at hotels for those that were trapped because they lost their cars. Shelters were at capacity. Schools had become receiving areas and rec centers were now triage units.
On the West side of Clear Lake area, high water rescues took place all day. Roads were impassable, and as the creeks and bayous rose, people were wading out of their homes with what little they could carry. The rain kept falling for much of the morning. I couldn’t stop to think about my neighbors that were trapped, as I watched the rescue helicopters fly overhead. I had to keep my head down and work. There are times when you need to process and sit still. For me, this was not one of them. My coping mechanism was to keep working. I knew that I could not drive a boat or fly a rescue chopper but I could get babies diapers. We answered calls and heard the stories. We hugged necks and tried to calm frayed nerves.
Our truck drivers went on any road that was safe and probably some they should not have traveled. They delivered box after box of underwear and clothes and food. We sent flyers to hotels and individuals began calling in, as well. We filled orders and continued dreaming about how to get our neighbors the help they needed. Whether it was food or material things, if it came across our radar, we sent the call out and rallied for support. Those of us that were safe and dry had to do something, anything, because so many of our neighbors were not.
Mid-way through the afternoon, I realized that the sound on the metal roof was gone. The rain seemed to be tapering off. People, and not just the ones in big trucks, were beginning to move around the city. After days and days of wet sky, it seemed eerily quiet. We left 218 at 6pm that night and I recall thinking to myself that it was too quiet. Would we be able to sleep? Would we know how to handle the silence? It was very odd, but we did it. We observed the area curfews and settled in before dark.
We were experiencing a tired that is hard to explain. In many ways, it was painful. The numbness of exhaustion mixed with sheer emotional turmoil of guilt and the need to help, clouds all rational thought. For those that embrace loving others, this is as tough as it gets. In these moments, you see the deepest pain of your fellow human and you want to push past any and everything to find a way to love. Even if that means sprinting past the normal warning signs of impending fatigue.
Our pillows were a needed retreat that night. My girls were still not ready to return to their own rooms, but we all crashed quickly. With no weather to interrupt, our sleep was full and when the alarm went off, we knew that the real work had just begun.
And there was evening and there was morning – the fourth day.