Tent to Home: A Harvey Survivor Finds Hope

Date Posted: 4/26/2018

By: Sherri Gragg
In January of this year, Pyppa Johnson, Disaster Director, Texas Annual Conference, received a call concerning a man in urgent need. James Alexander, a 72-year-old retired truck driver was living in a tent on his property in Pine Hurst, Texas.

Losing Hope
Alexander’s home had been condemned after suffering catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Harvey. He had called multiple organizations seeking help, but had come up empty-handed. When Johnson arrived on Alexander’s property for the first time, she found an empty lot except for an old storage shed, and a tent surrounded by gallon jugs of drinking water. As Alexander emerged from the tent he had called home for months, Johnson encountered a man who had all but given up hope. “When I first met him, he kept saying, ‘I don't know how you can do anything for me because everyone else has turned me down,’ I asked him to look into my eyes, and then I promised him that I would get something done,” Johnson said.

An Unprecedented Endeavor
At first, Johnson considered reaching out to multiple agencies with whom she had previously partnered for disaster relief, but as she prayed about the situation, she found that God had another idea. What if instead, she martialed her resources to buy Alexander a home and move it onto his property? After spending time researching the options at hand, Johnson was able to purchase Alexander a two-bedroom, one bath home for $11,500 and have it moved onto his property for another $1,000. Additional funds contributed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation Hurricane Relief Fund, UMCOR, and the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church will help complete some essential repairs to the home including new flooring and kitchen cabinets.
After three months of work and planning, the home was delivered to Alexander on Monday, April 23, 2018. It was an unprecedented event in the history of Disaster Ministries. When Johnson drove onto the property, she found the home up on a trailer. Beside it, in striking contrast, was the tent Alexander had called home for far too long. “He was just beaming,” Johnson said, “He kept saying, ‘You did it! I can’t believe you did it!’”

The Calling of Disaster Ministries
Johnson hopes for the quick completion of final preparations of the house to ensure Johnson will be “home sweet home” within the next 30 days. As she reflects on Alexander’s remarkable journey home, she is overwhelmed by the goodness and power of God. “While Harvey was the Beast of All Storms, it has caused me to think outside of the box in terms of how we help our clients,” Johnson said, “Getting James out of a tent and into a home has reminded me that the work of Disaster Ministries is a calling.”
Johnson hopes the story will remind churches throughout the Texas Conference to continue to partner with Disaster Ministries to meet the most pressing needs of Harvey survivors. “This is evidence of our giving at work,” Johnson said.