We Still Need You: The 2018 Disaster Summit
In the months after Hurricane Harvey, legions of volunteers descended upon flooded homes to return Houstonians to a new normal. Homes were gutted and restored. New furniture purchased. Drywall hung. One year later, as the 2018 hurricane season trudges on, Harvey’s survivors keep a wary eye on the sky while turning their hearts to a hopeful future.
But not everyone.
Thousands Still Displaced
According to Houston Responds, more than 100,000 families in the Greater Houston area remain displaced or living in damaged homes. Houston Responds believes local churches hold the power to alleviate their suffering. The Disaster Summit, held October 11, 2018, was designed to rally faith communities across all denominations in the Houston area to renew their commitment to the recovery effort.
“We are not trying to duplicate what other recovery agencies are already doing,” said the Rev. Jeff Schulz, Director of Networks for Houston Responds. “Our primary purpose is to unite, empower, and mobilize the church in ongoing recovery activities. If we could even minimally increase the number of churches participating, what a difference it would make.”
The Disaster Summit welcomed 300 attendees to the campus of Chapelwood UMC, including several state and federal agencies, to share stories of lives restored and clarify the challenges remaining. One benefit of the Summit, organizers assert, is that it offered various entities working in disaster recovery to make vital connections and begin working together in Houston’s continuing recovery.
Texas Annual Conference Provides Grant
According to Schulz, the Texas Annual Conference has been a vital partner with Houston Responds since the early days of Harvey. When Houston Responds needed financial support to underwrite the Disaster Summit, the Texas Annual Conference answered the call with a $2,500 grant. “The Texas Annual Conference made it possible for us to offer the conference free of charge,” said Schulz. “It was a real blessing. We are very thankful.”
As Houston Responds moves forward after the Disaster Summit, they do so with a fresh conviction that the answer to the remaining overwhelming need is found within the pews of the local church. Manpower, Schulz maintains, is even more desperately needed than financial gifts. “The Disaster Summit magnified the need for us to engage more churches in recovery work now that Harvey is no longer in the headlines,” said Schulz. “We want to mobilize the church to love our neighbors.”