Graces Big and Small: The One-Year Harvey Anniversary
By: Sherri Gragg
The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church marks the one-year Hurricane Harvey anniversary by looking back at the last year’s struggle and forward to a hopeful future.
On August 25, as Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas the Rev. Scott Moore, Director for the Center of Missional Excellence, began to plan how the Texas Annual Conference could provide assistance to our brothers and sisters in the Rio Texas Conference. The next day, Harvey’s torrential rains made it to the Houston area.
And just kept coming.
A Storm of Historical Proportions
Ultimately, Hurricane Harvey made landfall five times. Each time it returned from its hiatus in the Gulf of Mexico, it came back stronger. Over the span of two days, 30.48 inches of rain fell in the Houston area and the same astonishing amount of rainfall was matched in almost every county in six of the nine districts of the Texas Annual Conference. Nederland, in the Southeast District of the Conference, was hardest hit, amassing a total of 60.58 inches of rain over four days.
According to the National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report on Hurricane Harvey, “Hurricane Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in United States history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts, since reliable rainfall records began around the 1880s.” (National Hurricane Center, Eric S. Blake and David A. Zelinsky, May 9, 2018)
An Unprecedented Response
Two days after Moore was considering how best the Texas Annual Conference could assist the Rio Texas Conference with Harvey damage, he found himself marshalling an unprecedented disaster response on behalf of his own Conference. Today, as we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, those efforts continue.
It has been a remarkable year, a year as heavy with grief and loss as Harvey’s floodwaters. And yet, it has also been a year shot through with moments of breathtaking kindness, impossible redemption, and irrepressible hope. In Harvey, we glimpsed unimaginable destruction, but it paled in comparison to the love of Christ we witnessed in each other.
Graces Big and Small
The stories of outrageous grace are big ones. Between the end of August 2017 and the beginning of October, we deployed 12,600 flood buckets, 5,000 hygiene kits, and over 500 school kits. The Mission Center, freshly opened when Harvey struck, became a powerhouse of relief that continues to expand and refine its ministry. We have opened three regional recovery offices to address long term recovery issues.
Incredible grants have funded our recovery efforts, including a 4.8-million-dollar grant from UMCOR to fund Harvey recovery in the TAC through the fall of 2020. The Texas Annual Conference has also received over $1.5 million dollars from private and church donations, and has raised nearly $3 million through organizations like Rebuild Texas ($1,050,000), American Red Cross ($1,057,000), Greater Houston Community Foundation ($500,000), Motiva/East Texas Emergency Relief Fund ($100,000), Foundation for East Texas/Golden Pass ($50,000), United Way of Galveston ($50,000), Rotary Foundation of Beaumont ($50,000), Rotary Club of Port Arthur ($5,000).
But there are countless lesser-known stories of love and sacrifice that were the very fabric of God’s work in Harvey. Churches throughout the TAC transformed into shelters. Both Clergy and lay leaders braved dangerous rising water in trucks and boats to rescue their neighbors. Throughout the Texas Annual Conference, we opened our doors, our hearts, and our wallets in the compassion of Christ.
We have no intention of stopping now. One year post-Harvey, churches continue to send out teams to help rebuild the homes and lives of fellow Texans. Ministries throughout the Conference are refining their processes so that the next time a disaster strikes, we will be ready to meet it. The TAC has set a fundraising goal of $10 million to support long-term Harvey recovery.
“When we say we are in this for the long haul, we mean it,” said Moore.
And as we work together, we know our future remains a bright one.