When you are in darkness and see the flicker of light, you run. Sometimes the running takes you away from the light because light is painful. But, there are times when that small spark is hope. For one that has lost their hope, the promise of a new beginning is a miraculous gift. My resurrection day story is by all accounts a bit odd. What to many seemed to be a season of darkness became the moment where light broke into my darkest days.
I am a Gulf Coast girl. For more than 35 of my 42 years on this earth, I have lived on the coast of Texas. Since the first year of my life, there have been named tropical weather systems. Some of them have been significant in damage and loss of life. I can still recall watching the eye wall of Hurricane Alicia go over my house as an eight year old. In September of 2008, a storm by the name of Ike formed in the Gulf of Mexico. On September 13th, it made landfall over Galveston , at 2:10 a.m. as a category 2 storm. Ike caused extensive damage in Texas with high winds, a significant storm surge, and flooding.
We live less that a mile from Galveston Bay in League City. Our area was a mandatory evacuation zone. At the time, I had a 1st grader and a 3-year-old. We went to my parent’s house on the west side of Houston. While their house would see the rain and wind, they were safe from the storm surge. The storm surge at our house was a foot from our foundation. Our house was spared flooding and major damage. I cannot say the same for many of my neighbors. Wide spread power outages were significant and property damage was extensive. According to a Hurricane Ike Impact Report by the Texas Engineering Extension Service, damage in Texas from the storm was estimated to be $29 billion.
As the roads were safe, residents came home and began to assess the damage. Almost immediately, area churches began to band together to assist the community. Our church was without a building of our own, but with eager and willing workers, we joined with others to begin the clean up. To help coordinate, I attended a meeting with church representatives to expedite the joint effort. Quickly, it was clear that my best skill set for this task was to help organize from the administrative end.
Within days, I was immersed in full-time relief coordination. With a team of amazing women and men from across skill sets, the organization was in full swing. Within weeks, it was clear that this was a long-term commitment. When school returned for my girls, I spent my weekdays working in the office of one of the most active recovery efforts in the Bay Area. More than 3,300 volunteers worked as a part of the C.O.R.E. Alliance base camp during the 6 months following Hurricane Ike. More than 200 homes were cleaned and sanitized and the rebuild portion of the team helped non and under insured community members with recovery.
The leadership team of the organization had no idea about the two-fold disaster relief effort that was taking place in this time. By all accounts, I was a capable, organized and results driven leader. They had no idea that one of their key participants was literally being brought back to life daily. On the days that I felt worthless, I would walk in the office and answer a call from a desperate homeowner that had 4’ of water in their home. If you ever need perspective on gratitude, place yourself in the path of someone who has lost everything to a natural disaster. When you stand in the driveway and have lost everyTHING, and yet can still have hope and love and grace, it changes everyone around you.
For months, I listened to the voices of those that were hurting and those that were helping. With each passing day, resurrection was taking place. New life was being breathed into my heart and soul and even my body. What began as a natural disaster on September 13th, became a moment of breathtaking wonder. The people who I met, the clients we served, the way that our church dreamed and worked and loved opened the tomb of my heart. What was a cold, lifeless place of pain was washed with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And through the broken debris, God rebuilt my purpose. As I watched my community come back to life, I was grounded in the assurance that no matter the strength of the storm, no matter the power of destruction, I have a Creator that longs to work healing and restoration in the darkest corners of my despair.