Water for Life: Beaumont in Need
When Hurricane Harvey hit last week, a good friend of mine in Abilene called and said he wanted to help. His name is E.C Ice. He is a United Methodist licensed local pastor in Hamlin, TX with deep roots in Conroe. He is also a volunteer firefighter and the mayor of Hamlin. He originally said he wanted to load a 16 foot trailer with water and bring it to me. I thought it would be good to have some on hand to send out with our volunteer teams, so I told E.C. to bring the water. He called me Wednesday and said that his water drive had gotten out of hand, and he now needed an 18-wheeler to deliver the water. Not wanting to discourage him, I told him to bring the truck. Thursday afternoon he brought in a truck with 20 pallets of water (roughly 700 cases, 50,000 pounds). That same afternoon, an entire troop of Boy Scouts showed up at the Mission Center to volunteer. We had no idea they were coming. We didn't even know how they knew who or where we were. But, never ones to turn away good help, we put them to work. The kids verified hygiene kits while some of the adults helped unload the water.
This is where the story starts to turn past coincidence into an, "Oh. This is one of those God moments." I fretted all Thursday night wondering what I would do with 20 pallets of water taking up space in the warehouse. I decided that Beaumont would be a good place for it, as I had not received any requests in the Houston area. Then, Friday morning, I see Alicia's emails about the water system in Beaumont being down and 115,000 people being without drinking water. Then it looked like the water was back on. Then I talked to Jon Stouffer and the water was NOT on. So I knew we HAD to get this water to Beaumont.
A not-so-quick glance at the TXDOT website showed there was no easy way into Beaumont from Houston. I-10 was shut down. 90 was shut down in several places. So, with Morris' help we mapped a circuitous route from Conroe to Beaumont. Morris volunteered to drive a truck if I could find one. So, I frantically searched for a rental truck large enough to handle enough water to actually make a difference. No luck. Not a large rental truck to be had in a reasonable distance.
Then, I thought I'd hire a commercial trucking company to haul the load. After all, it got to me on an 18-wheeler. It could leave the warehouse on one, too, right? Again, no luck. No commercial shipper would even consider taking the load because the major highways were shut down and no one wanted to be stranded and have to sit on an unpaid load waiting for water to go down.
About this time I learn that FEMA had promised a delivery of water to Beaumont. The city had announced a water distribution location and time, but then had to cancel it because the FEMA trucks couldn't get into Beaumont.
The only conceivable way now is to fly it in on a helicopter. But, where am I, a lowly Methodist pastor going to get a helicopter?
As I reached the end of my water-borne sanity, who should walk into the Mission Center but the Boy Scout leader from Thursday. He politely asks if we still have the pallets of water. I ask him if he knows anyone that needs it, to which he replies, "well, we are working at the Catholic Church today and they're in a tight spot. See, they have been asked to find water to put on Blackhawk helicopters to fly into Beaumont. You think they could have some of yours?" As soon as I quit screaming and hugging him (not a pleasant proposition given my morning's warehouse activities) I tell him they can certainly have it. Do they have someone with a truck that can come get it. He says he's not sure, but he'll find out.
One quick phone call and 30 minutes later a flatbed 18-wheeler comes rolling into the Mission Center being driven by a local Justice of the Peace. Guido (that's my forklift) and I load 14 of the pallets of water onto the judge's truck, which he (ever so cautiously) drives down the street to the North Houston Regional Airport in Conroe. The water gets loaded onto Army Reserve Blackhawk helicopters and airlifted into Beaumont.
So, let's do the ecumenical math.
Phantom Boy Scouts working at a Catholic Church who know of United Methodists with water connect the 2 organizations. A Justice of the Peace drives a truck that is loaded by a school board member to take to a public airport to be loaded onto military aircraft to fly to a different city to support a civilian governmental agency.
God is good.
Rev. Scott Moore
Center for Missional Excellence
Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church