In 22 years I don’t think I’ve ever been as homesick as I have been this week.
22 years. That’s how many years I’ve lived outside of Texas, and you’d think I’d be over it by now, but I suppose that’s the kind of affect a place can have. I didn’t even know I was affected by it until I left, but then again Texas is not just any place.
It’s a warm place – in weather, in jalapeños, and in friendliness.
It’s a diverse place – in landscape, in culture, in ethnicity.
It’s a fun place – on a Friday night under the lights, on a river tube, and in a live music venue.
It’s a place of faith – with its churches, seminaries, and mission-minded service groups
But this week it’s a hurting place. A place literally flooded with pain and loss, and it’s causing me to ache with homesickness and helplessness.
My friend, Laura, was trapped in her third floor apartment and without running water until a boat rescued her yesterday. I still don’t know where she ended up.
Other friends, Shawn and Lynette, have a family of strangers living with them – folks they met at the grocery store who were without a safe and dry place to go.
I’m seeing dear friends from high school and college post general well wishes or updates on Facebook only to have their comment threads turn into desperate cries for help from those who have not had a rescue yet. People on rooftops with cell phones.
And I’m watching those threads turn into literal lifeboats as a network of friends and strangers write comments and work together to dispatch a husband or brother with a boat to their exact location. (Thank you, God, for social media during times like this.)
The family of 6 washed off the bridge in their minivan, the driver unable to help them out, but able to hear the children cry as they sank below the floods.
The police officer of 34 years who left his home because he “had work to do” against the desperate pleas of his wife to stay, and who drowned on his way to report to his station.
The police commissioner who told the story through tears of pain, but also tears of hope as he discovered they “are a family of faith, and where’s there’s faith there’s hope…the hope of eternal life in Jesus.”
The caravans of trucks pulling boats on every open highway, headed to give their time and resources to the rescue mission. The caravans of H.E.B. grocery trucks.
The rallying tweets and posts of the local churches who mobilized volunteers immediately.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams with their food tents and emergency equipment.
And I just want to be there. I just want to go home. I want to help. I want to serve. I want to comfort. I want to cook and clean and give rides. I want to go shopping and make beds and wash clothes. I want to pray with and for those who have lost everything.
But I can’t, and you know what? I think God has been preparing me for this week. Here’s how: He keeps bringing up this famous Oswald Chambers quote in conversations. I haven’t read Oswald Chambers since college, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least five times in the last three months I’ve had a conversation with someone about this very quote:
“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.”
And so in my in my heartbrokenness, my homesickness, that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
For the church there to rise up, to join together in sacrificial service, and be a powerful witness to the gospel.
For the world to look on, see their good works, and praise their Father in Heaven.
For those who are still stranded and alone to be found.
For lives to be spared.
For the helpless, the elderly, and the hospitalized to be protected and provided for.
For the schemes of the devil, who would love to capitalize on the destruction, to be circumvented and sent back to hell.
For the usual voices of criticism and condemnation to be silenced.
For the strength of the divers, the firemen, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, the police, the volunteers.
For the strengthening of the people of Houston and Rockport and Port Aransas and Dickinson and Beaumont and more – in faith and in hope.
And not just for Texas, but Louisiana, too.
Chambers goes on to write,
“Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, ‘I am of no use where I am,’ because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him.”
“When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results.”
Oh, how I’d rather do the shopping and the cleaning and the sheltering and the feeding. You know… work that feels so much more tangible than prayer. But He’d already prepared me, and He’s showing me now that prayer is a great work – even a greater work than any small amount of hands-on labor I could offer.
Texas, I ache with you today. I’m heartbroken over your losses and devastation. But I (along with so many others) am praying for God’s mercy upon you today and for His healing upon you tomorrow.
And while prayer is indeed the greater work, there are also some ways to help from afar. We’re choosing one or two of the following ways, and hope that you will, too:
Bayou City Fellowship is a great church in Houston. It’s also Beth Moore’s church, in case that rings a bell. They are hard at work dispatching volunteers with shop vacs, shovels, boats, food, and more. They would be a great place to direct your resources. Here is their volunteer/donation page.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are selling this t-shirt and donating 100% of proceeds to disaster relief.
James Avery is a Texas and faith based jewelry designer. 100% of proceeds from the purchase of this charm will go to relief efforts in southeast/northeast Texas.
And if you’d like to give personally to one of our friends in the Houston area, just send me a message, and I’ll connect you with them!