Mark Robert Renn was born outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and has since lived all over the country. Kingwood is the fourth Texan city Renn has lived in, with Houston, Austin, and Fort Forth. Renn has been an associate pastor in Kingwood for the past five years. Growing up, Renn lived in a Christian home, but he recounts his religion strengthening in college when he learned what it truly meant to have a burden for the lost. After college, he became a youth director in Houston for four years, then went into seminary to full-time church work as a pastor.
Renn details the trajectory of his beginnings as a pastor, where his family moved, what the different communities meant to him. The pastor had experience with flood victims before Harvy when he volunteered in San Marcos after the Memorial Day floods. When Harvey hit, Renn admitted that his preparation could have been better. Harvey brought power outages, rain damage, wind damage, and Renn recalls how he and his family handled those issues. Due to the release of the Conroe dams, many church fellows suffered two to four feet of flooding in their homes, bringing the church community together to help those affected. Renn set out in a canoe with his son to volunteer support to those who needed it. Once the flooding subsided, Kingwood had to act quickly to fight against mold and other side effects from the rain. To prevent such things, the church separated individuals into groups who traveled to different homes, helping fix anything that needed repairing. Another avenue for help included the creation of a church fund of approximately $80,000. They rented a Bobcat to go throughout the neighborhood with some of the funds, removing debris from homes. Upon reflection, Renn estimated over one hundred people helped and supported the community post-Harvey. To account for the hope among the devastation, Renn recounts a family’s story that he believed to be one of inspiration in dark times. Another inspiring effect from Harvey is the organization Houston Responds that seeks to support those in Houston and surrounding areas for those in any situation that demands help.
INTERVIEWER: This is Debbie Harwell. I’m here with Mark Renn. We’re at the First Presbyterian Church in Kingwood. It’s October 23, 2018. And we’re going to talk about Mark’s experiences with Hurricane Harvey.
DH: But first, if you could, please state your full name. And tell me when and where you were born.
MR: Sure. My name is Mark Robert Renn. I was born just outside of Boston in Quincy, Massachusetts and have lived all over the country since then.
DH: Oh, wow. Are you a Patriots fan?
MR: I am. I actually went to college with Tom Brady, too, so we have double reason to cheer for them.
DH: Okay, worse than that, are you a Red Sox fan? I have to ask.
MR: Not recently, no.
DH: Good answer.
MR: Yeah, yeah.
DH: So how long have you been in Houston or Kingwood?
MR: So in Kingwood, I’ve been an associate pastor here for about five years now. And before that, I lived [0:01:00] in central Houston. I worked at another church down by Rice University and have gone to Austin, Fort Worth, and lots of other Texas states. And this is our fourth city that we’ve lived in.
DH: Oh, wow, good. You named some of my favorite places.
MR: Yep, yep.
DH: So tell me a little bit about how you came to enter the ministry.
MR: Okay. Well, I grew up in a Christian home. And throughout my life, I was always involved church and youth group — and kind of grew into some leadership roles in my high school youth group. But when I went to college, I really came to know really what it means to have a burden for the lost and the desire to introduce people to Jesus Christ as their savior — and grew in leadership there. And after college, I became a youth director in Houston for four years and felt the call to go into seminary to full-time church work [0:02:00] as a pastor.
After seminary, I took a call at a church in Mobile, Alabama and served there as a solo pastor for five years. And during those years, I really felt that my heart was most fully alive when I was serving the community and doing mission work, developing new ministries programs. So at the end of those five years, I really felt that God had discerned my sense of call to really focus on mission evangelism. So when I saw that this church was looking for an associate pastor for mission evangelism and my wife and kids and I were eager to come back to Texas, it seemed like a great fit for us. And it has been, so.
DH: That’s great. That’s great. So did you have any experience with floods, or storms, or hurricanes, especially in a place like Mobile maybe?
MR: So we came to Mobile after all of the aftermath of Katrina, but our church, even before I got there, had [0:03:00] served groups coming in that were coming in to help them do repair stuff. So that’s always been a part of our narrative. When a tornado ripped through wherever University of Southern Mississippi is, Hattiesburg, I think, we went and did some repair work there. When we came to Houston, we also did some trips to San Marcos after the Memorial Day floods about four years ago. And that was actually my first chance doing the muck and gut — you know, really tearing through some Section 8 housing and really an area that was really hard hit. So we took a college group and some adults from our church to do that after that happened. And so when Harvey hit here, I had a good group of people that already really knew exactly what needed to be done and had been trained in the field to do that work. So we were able to really hit the ground running as a church [0:04:00].
DH: So you were certainly a veteran.
MR: I was — I was a one-week veteran who knows how to take control and pretend like he knows what he’s doing, so.
DH: Well, that was probably more veteran than some of the other people. Alright, so run me through a little bit of the scenario as the weather predictions for Harvey were coming out. What were you thinking? What were you doing to prepare?
MR: I would — I would say that our preparations were not — were not probably as good as they could have been. We, like everybody, anticipated a rain event. So we were watching the rainfalls. We were watching the creek levels. You know, we had some minor flooding in our street. My house is on the other side of Kingwood Drive, so we were not — we were in a neighborhood that was not flooded — but definitely sensed that the rain [0:05:00] was, even on our street, creating much more problems than we’re used to. And so that first weekend, I guess it was the Saturday and Sunday, we were really preparing to see, you know, wind damage, rain damage. We were not obviously anticipating the flood damage that we experienced. But on the Sunday before, we were really starting to see mass power outages, trees coming down. So we had already, that Saturday and Sunday afternoon, started working on cutting trees, chainsaw crews, all that kind of stuff.
And I remember, you know, we had one service of worship that Sunday morning before they released all the waters from Conroe and we had the four feet of water everywhere. And I had worn some of my clothes from my mission trips that are all covered with paint. And I got up on [0:06:00] that Sunday morning and said, “I’m dressed like this for two reasons. One, it’s raining out, and I don’t want to ruin my one good pair of pants. And second, I want to remind the congregation that your backyard is about to be a mission field one way or another. And as a congregation, we’re going to have people in our church that are affected by this. We’re going to have people in our community that are affected by whatever happens next. And just know that we’re going to be ready to respond in whatever way we can.”
And the church was eager to get involved. But of course, at that point, we had not yet seen the damage that came the next day. When overnight, the Conroe dams were releasing a hundred — a hundred — at least a hundred houses in our church — so church members were flooded between two and four feet. And [0:07:00] then our work kind of radiated outward from there to neighbors and picking a neighborhood and just kind of working the streets and making sure people had what they needed to get started, volunteers, tools, and so on.
DH: I understand also you were one of the first people out in a boat.
MR: You could call it a boat. It’s a canoe.
DH: Oh, okay.
MR: So my son and I, we have some — obviously lots of friends, but one family in particular that was in the back of the Fosters Mill neighborhood that they have kids that are my son’s age. And when we got news that they and lots of other people were trapped and couldn’t get out due to the water in the streets, we decided we would, you know, do what we can to go check it out. And it was probably a somewhat reckless move, knowing [0:08:00] — once we got in there and there was swift water, you know, moving. It was essentially like paddling down the center of the road — probably a Class II current just with the amount of rapids.
And you know, there was one point where my son and I were paddling, and we hit something and dragged along the bottom of our canoe and realized that it was a car. And we had glided right over the top of a car. So yeah, once we realized we could get in and out of the neighborhood, we made trips back and forth to the areas where people were gathering and took some dogs out — took some families out and some luggage out — and did that for probably two days. And like I said, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do with all the other, you know, power boats coming [0:09:00] in and out. But we were blessed and fortunate that we didn’t have any issues, problems. We never — we never tipped over or — so.
DH: That’s my neighborhood, Fosters Mill.
DH: I didn’t flood.
DH: But I definitely saw what you’re talking about in terms of how swift the current was, how deep the water was, all of that. So I’m not sure how you were negotiating that in a canoe, because I saw some of the other boats — fishing boats or whatever that were struggling.
MR: Well, if it impresses you more, my son’s 10 years old, so he —
DH: Oh, my gosh.
MR: My wife didn’t think this was a great idea, but it was one of those things where when a disaster hits, you don’t want to be reckless or dangerous. And since then, I thought back and said, “You know, if we had happened — and one or two of us had gotten caught up in that current [0:10:00], it really could have been a disaster.” But you know, in those moments when people are in need and people are stranded, I wanted to — I wanted to teach my son that, if you’re able, you do — you do what you can to help, so.
DH: So you touched on a little bit about the relief efforts that were organized through the church — tearing down houses and more things that that. Could you tell me a little bit more about that — the different types of activities and how you all spearheaded that?
MR: Sure, right. So one of the things that I knew was going to be essential is that we be ready to respond as quickly as possible. Because as you know, once the water subsided, the whole city was against a timeclock for mold and all that kind of stuff. So we took — we took an approach to say, “Show up. We’ll give you a job [0:11:00]. We’ll supply you with tools. We’ll give you some basic training. We’re going to pray as a group, and then we’ll split you up into houses.” And as the first couple days went on, we definitely got better and more organized. And we had a great team of people that essentially stayed at the church and took phone calls, put out — put together cards of what was needed at different houses.
So each morning, for those first two to three weeks, we had a number of people — you know, at most, probably 50 to 60, 75 volunteers show up specifically to go out into the community to do the muck and guts or remove furniture and so on. So because we had had that experience before in San Marcos, a couple of guys that were with me on that trip were able to come and kind of lead some groups and take them out. And you know, we did a lot of stuff via our Facebook [0:12:00] page, where we would go into a building and take a video of how to do something properly, post it on the Facebook page. If somebody figured out some kind of a secret or hint that made a job faster, we were putting that up there.
And one of the things that I specifically wanted our volunteers to do was to split up into teams and to learn how to do one job really well. So if we had a team that was just focused on getting carpet out and getting furniture out, they could hit a whole house and move onto the next house. Then a team that had been doing the drywall and all the other stuff – excuse me – could follow them and do that work. So we didn’t want everybody feeling like they had to do 20 jobs. We wanted people to get really good at one thing.
And as I said before, you know, we had a lot of people in our [0:13:00] church that were flooded. So we had a lot of calls and a lot of elderly people. So we felt a responsibility to help them first. But we also felt a burden to say, “At the end of this, we don’t want to have been a church that just took care of our own people.” So I was encouraging people, “You know, as you’re going on, check on the neighbors on either side. Check on the family across the street. Take time to pray with people before you start your work. Don’t just show up and start smashing things.” And we actually had to do a lot of training — not training, but instruction, encouragement to remind people, you know, these are entire lifetimes of memories, pictures, wedding albums, furniture, antiques, you know, things that have been have handed down for generations.
So we talked about some, you know, sensitivity [0:14:00] training — asking questions, asking permission, you know, showing grace, being patient, looking for those signs when, you know, the homeowners were about to lose it emotionally, and just say, “Stop what you’re doing. You know, talk to them. Offer to pray with them. You know, just be there. The work is important, but that’s not the only reason that God has called you to be in that situation.”
DH: That’s very important.
DH: The connection people feel when — to see their lives sitting out on the curb is very, very difficult. So I know that you all ended up working pretty far off field. I think I’ve heard that through my friend, Jack Stover’s wife, Kim.
MR: Yes, yeah.
DH: You all were even out there in Forest Cove.
MR: Yes, so initially — I would say the [0:15:00] first two to three weeks, we really stayed focused on Fosters Mill. The Enclave, we spent a lot of time there as every home in there was flooded four feet. And then a lot of our church families were scattered in different neighborhoods. So it really gave us — you know, as a — as a pastor, not that I would want this ever to happen again here or elsewhere, but it really gave you a unique opportunity to enter into conversation with people that you would never talk to before. Because everybody was so aware of their desperation and their need for help.
And I mean, I remember literally just walking into people’s houses, announcing I was there and if you see someone — if the homeowner there just seemed lost, we would start by saying — first of all, introducing ourselves and saying, you know, “Do you have a plan [0:16:00] for the next steps,” and all that. And if they said, “Yes,” we said, “Do you have — do you need help? Do you have volunteers?” And they could say, “We have friends and family coming in.” But for the person that said, “I have no idea where to start,” it was a really neat opportunity for me to say, “Listen, I’m not a contractor. I’m a pastor. I’ve done this before. I’m not here to take control, but if you want me to take control, I’ll take control.” And a lot of the homeowners, especially some of the older ones, said, “Take control. I don’t know what to do next.” And we were able to give them that comfort of saying, “Okay, you’re fine for now. We’ll get some volunteers here after lunch. We’ll get a team here in the morning,” and offer to pray with them and show them things that they could do.
So people would, you know, look at the walls and the carpet and the furniture and feel overwhelmed. And a lot of times [0:17:00], they couldn’t move all the furniture by themselves. We could say, “If you could start getting all this small stuff and all the clutter and all the things that are washed off the shelves, out the door, that will help us a lot to be able to get the carpet — to get the big stuff.” So even when people felt overwhelmed, it was helpful to be able to say, “Here’s what you can do for the next couple of hours until we’re able to show up with reinforcements.”
But to answer your question, so we stayed pretty close, like I said, for those first two, three weeks. And because we had had such a strong presence on Facebook and worked with other pastors in the whole Flooding Kingwood with Kindness Facebook page that really was a great network for people to share needs, to offer help, to provide food, and so on. We got — we got some calls from an apartment complex down in Forest Cove. And when we got down there, we really — we realized [0:18:00] that most of those residents were elderly, living there by themselves, single women, and really had not started any of the work that they needed. And this was three weeks after the water had subsided, so we kind of — and that was also the point where a lot of our initial volunteers were going back to work. Kids were going back to school.
So Jack, your friend, and I, you know, palled up. And he said, “You know, whatever you need me to do,” because he and I had worked together for the first couple weeks as well. And we had had some friends come down from Michigan that wanted to help and were able to put together small crews up of five or six to, along with some of the other retired men in our church, to go through and start ripping things out. We learned new jobs. We removed brick fireplaces [0:19:00].
The big thing that we were able to respond to with Jack’s help in week three and four was all of the debris piles that were on the yards were not getting picked up, because they were too close to the house or next to a tree. So the trucks from San Antonio were saying, you know, “We’ll get everything that’s within a ten-foot reach from the curb, but beyond that, we’re not going to be able to help you.” So now, these families have not only put their whole house on their curb. Now, they’ve got to look at it. Now, it’s starting to rot if there’s food or other things in there. And at that point, to move those debris piles piled by hand was hugely hazardous based on any of the chemicals or food waste that could have been in there. But also, I mean, it’s broken glass, ceramics, pottery, toilets, showers, metal. So as a church, we used some of the money that was [0:20:00] donated from people all over the country.
We opened a fund early in the process and, you know, took donations from church members, friends, people all over the country and raised about $80,000 that we were able to give back through grants to people who were flooded. But when that money came in, I said, “It will be important that we keep some of this separate for tools, supplies, rentals, machineries, any of those kind of things.” Pardon me. So we saved about — I think we set aside about $5,000 that was essentially, you know, up there for me to do Home Depot runs to buy the right tools, to buy saws, crowbars, you know, things to pop out tiles from floors.
And that third and fourth [0:21:00] week, we actually rented essentially a Bobcat, a big skid-steer with a front loader, and just drove — went and parked in a neighborhood, went from house to house, and said, “We can move your pile to the street. It’s not going to be pretty. Your yard’s destroyed anyway, because that stuff’s been sitting there for four weeks. But you know, we’ll push it out for you so that it can get picked up.” And at that point, we were racing the San Antonio trucks, because they were going to leave at a certain point. And it gave us the ability to give the homeowners a sense of urgency to say, “We can do this today, but we can’t come back. Like it’s either — you know, we’re here on your street today and loading and unloading.” And moving 8,000-pound piece of machinery takes some time. Whereas, in the initial flood, we could go, you know, all over the place house to house. With this project, you know, we [0:22:00] picked a street. We picked the apartment complex and said, “We’ll do this whole thing, and then we’ll load up at the end of the day. And tomorrow, we’ll pick another street,” because we were able to get more use out of the rental that way, so.
DH: How many volunteers do you think you had?
MR: All throughout, over — easily over a hundred, maybe two hundred that came at different points. And you know, we talk a lot about the destruction, the — you know, taking houses apart and so one. But you know, we had a huge group of volunteers that, you know, stayed up and did intake, that did phone calls, that, you know, were here to pray with people. We also offered lunch and dinner for the whole community those first three weeks so that, you know, people could come back and have lunch and have a hot dinner. And we got a lot of donations [0:23:00] for that. And especially once we realized that a lot of groups were bringing food to the neighborhoods, we kind of slowed down on the lunch.
But we actually had a group of about 20 to 30 that came in from Atlanta that knew someone in Kingwood that knew our church. And they stayed with us for about four days. And they brought a freezer truck from some food service company that was there. And most of that food got donated to Mission Northeast, because we didn’t have a place to keep it. But, you know, we filled our freezer with brisket, and turkey, and sausage. And they had a whole box of frozen lobster tail. So one night after everyone was out working in the mess and all that kind of stuff, we had a lobster dinner at the church for free.
And there were just some great — there were some great memories from that time. And honestly, I — in my [0:24:00] five years, I can’t remember a time that our church was closer. I mean, because people were there for each other. People were desperate, and they came to the church for help. And they got it. People were working tirelessly, you know, for their community and for the Lord. And at the end of the day, they went home, and they showered and got cleaned up and came back the next day. So it was — as a missions pastor, who does usually week-long mission trips in the summertime, people come away saying, “Oh, that mission trip changed my life.” I think I can say that our church’s response and our experience with Harvey really changed this church and, in some ways, changed the community as well.
DH: That kind of brings me, I guess, or really [0:25:00] feeds into what my next question was going to be. Which was, apart from the physical efforts of tearing out things and whatnot, I wondered how you would say First Presbyterian ministered to the spiritual and emotional needs of the community.
MR: Yeah, like I said, as a pastor, you don’t typically find opportunities to offer to pray with someone where they don’t feel awkward about it, right?
MR: But in the midst of a tragedy, it’s the same thing that happened after 9/11. People were like, “We got to go back to church,” right? In the midst of the aftermath, to be able to walk into someone’s house and say, you know, “We’re with First Presbyterian Church. I’m a pastor. We’re here to help, but you know, can we pray for you first,” people were so responsive to that. And you know, asking [0:26:00] the question, “How can we be praying for you today,” a lot of times the homeowner would bring up something that had nothing to do with the flood. They’re like, “Actually, I’m really worried about, you know, my father, because, you know, he’s not doing well.” You know, so in the midst of what seemed like the obvious prayer request, an offer to pray with someone always solicits, you know, surprising results. And so we were able to do that.
We did — we did a number of things as the time went on and the volunteer needs kind of went down, because in Kingwood especially, we obviously experienced a lot of people, you know, moving towards contractors and moving towards professional labor. We’re actually still doing work along with the rest of the city, working low-income neighborhoods where they just couldn’t afford to have someone to come in. So [0:27:00] houses that are still completely gutted to the stud — you know, things haven’t been replaced. People are still living, you know, on second floors or in other places.
So in Kingwood, we had to kind of perceive, “How do we continue to respond even after the obvious things have been completed?” So we were worked with a friend of one of our church members who put together — what was it called? I think she called it Hope in the Forest. And we got the whole community to create these little two-foot Christmas trees that they could bring in and decorate. They were all different themes and decorations. As a church, we bought a hundred of these from Walmart and got them all shipped here and had a big event where church members, kids, family members could come in and just decorate. And we had people donate old [0:28:00] Christmas decorations and so on.
And then in mid-December, alongside our children’s program, we told people that were there, you know, “If you were flooded and, you know, you would like something to kind of brighten up your house at this time of year, we’d love for you to take one of these trees. Go pick out the one that you like.” And you know, the whole fellowship hall was filled with, you know, hundreds of these trees. But then we told them, “And if you were flooded, it’s likely that your neighbors were flooded, too, so we encourage you to take an extra one and bring it over and just remind them that they’re not forgotten. And remind them that God loves them.” And even for our members that weren’t flooded and people that were there, we said, “If you can think of someone that doesn’t go to our church — that doesn’t, you know, go to any church, pick one and bring it over. And use that to brighten their day.”
So yeah, in addition to that, we’ve [0:29:00] just been kind of doing ongoing work in Houston. One of our longtime mission partners is Rebuilding Together Houston, who does home repairs, typically for elderly folks. But since this happened, obviously, that’s the whole gamut of people that are low-income in need of the support. And then this summer, we actually took a mission trip down to Rockport, Corpus Christi. Because that was an area, obviously, that was hit harder by the wind. But when all the relief efforts nationally were coming in, they all kind of went to Beaumont and Houston. And Corpus Christi/Rockport was kind of — not forgotten, but they didn’t receive as much direct aid of volunteers. Because obviously, they’re a little bit further — five hours south of here. So we really wanted to say at the end of this that we took care of our community the best we could. We reached out to our city [0:30:00] the best we could. And we also kind of expanded to our region a little bit more, so.
DH: What would you say was the most inspiring story that you encountered?
MR: Oh, wow.
DH: Or that you were part of?
MR: That’s hard.
DH: Really hard to pick one?
MR: Yeah, so I’ll tell you one story of a family in our church. And their kids are my kids’ age. They were the family that we actually paddled in to rescue in the canoe the first day. And you know, we had been to their house dozens of times, obviously, as friends. And you know, when we came around the corner, and, you know, his truck’s in the street and waves are coming over it. And we come around the corner and see the whole family on the second story [0:31:00], kind of hanging out the window with a pillow case — you know, a white flag, you know, so they could flag down people to help. And they didn’t know that we were coming, so when we came around the corner and they saw us in our ridiculous little canoe coming to pick up a family of four, it was like this combination of laughing, crying. Like you know, thank you for coming, but I remember just seeing that kind of fear and desperation on those kids’ faces — and on the parents’ faces, that look of just despair — and not hopelessness, because they never lost their hope — but just that feeling of being utterly gut-punched, you know.
And this is a family that had just finished a year and a half of remodeling on their first floor. That was kind of their dream to get [0:32:00] the house the way they wanted it. They had exhausted a lot of their savings and resources to do it. And you know, the day before the floods came in, I had gone over there to help him, essentially, divert some of the rain water that was barely creeping up in through one of the holes in the brick. And you know, we spent an hour or two trying to fix this little water pump. And that same spot, when we showed up the next day, was five-feet underwater. So it was like — you know, for him to look down and say, “Hey, sorry I wasted your time yesterday,” you know, it was just a — it was really heartbreaking to see a family literally in need of rescue. And I came to their front door, and you could just tell that they were heartbroken.
I mean, you could look through the whole house, and the whole thing was filled with water [0:33:00] — and walked with that family — continue to walk with that family, but in January, her son, who’s about my son’s age — so he’s about nine — had — they all had an assignment at school to write a poem to answer the prompt, I am blank and blank. So they could come up with any adjective. You know, I am fast and athletic or whatever. And the son wrote his poem. He said, “I am sad and hopeful.” And he wrote a poem that was all about — you know, “I see –” you know, “I see my house –” and this was still January when they hadn’t finished the remodel. “I see my house, and it I wish it was the way it was. I flipped the light switch again to see [0:34:00] if it still works.” And throughout the whole thing he keeps, you know, resaying that line, “I am sad but hopeful.”
And essentially, in terms of inspiration, what he had written was a psalm of lament. Which is to say, in the book of Psalms, there’s a whole series of psalms that the writer laments their current state and says, “Things shouldn’t be this way. God, why are you doing this? You know, why are my enemies achieving victory,” and so on. But they always end with a request and trust in God that says, “And yet, I will trust in you. And yet, I know that you will bring us through this.” And this poem that was written for a school assignment really captured all of those things.
And at the end of the summer, they had finished their remodel. And the family and the father had done a lot of it himself [0:35:00]. And the house just looked beautiful and amazing. And everything was put back together. And they hosted a baby shower for another member of our church, who’s having a baby. And it just felt like a full-year cycle of tragedy, despair, hard work, really owning the frustration in the moment but retaining hope. And to get around to the summer, to see the house full of life and full of warmth and beauty and joy and all those things again really put — for me, put the whole year in perspective.
And we had a — we had a celebration. And we called it a celebration a year afterwards, kind of remembering the year since Harvey, because while it was terrible and while there was so much loss, we also saw [0:36:00] God work in such amazing ways. We saw neighbors, family, friends, strangers come together and serve one another. You know, people cried together. People laughed together. People were generous with time and resources. So you know, when we looked back on the year, it was to acknowledge, “There’s still a lot more work to do.” Though some of our families are back to normal, others are not. Other people that didn’t have some of the resources that many of the Kingwood families have are still pretty close to square one still. And yet, we wanted to celebrate that God was at work through this. And He’ll be at work after this. And He’ll be at work in the next community, which we’re seeing in North Carolina and Florida now. So yeah, the year was full of lots of those kind of [0:37:00] moments, so.
DH: Speaking of North Carolina and Florida, Florence and Michael, did anyone from your church volunteer there or go there?
MR: Yeah, so we contacted a number of our church partners there, because it’s always good to go at least have someone that you know there to work with. The challenge for us in getting there is obviously the distance. I think we had a couple members individually go. We’re still considering taking a trip to North Carolina to do some of the repair or the rebuilding stuff. But when Michael hit, it became not at all more urgent but more practical for us maybe to go there, because we could get there in half the time and use more time to serve than to drive. So [0:38:00] yes, we’re still working on that. We did not do the immediate response, just because in a practical way, you know, when Harvey hit, we were still at the end of summer. And everything shut down, so we had all the volunteers in the world. It was harder — it was much harder for us to coordinate a group event where we could get more than a handful of people to go at any given time. So we’re going to — we’re going to keep our eyes open for opportunities to respond in whatever ways we can — and obviously, had started, you know, raising funds again to assist with that process, so.
DH: It seems like there’s always kind of a place in need. So is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share about your Harvey experience [0:39:00]?
MR: You know, I think — I think it showed us the power of responding and being available when there’s a crisis. You know, we have — we have a lot of opportunities in our lives to respond to things in our world, things in people’s lives. And you know, typically, I would say the average American response is, “Well, that’s not really my business,” right? And during this disaster, you had permission to make it your business and to say, “Listen, I’m here to help. I’m here to offer a hand.” And sometimes we would go into a situation thinking we were going to help with one thing, and the reason we were there was something completely different. You know, it’s — it was — it was an opportunity to see, I think, the best [0:40:00] in people.
Sadly, you know, tragedy also brings out — you know, if someone’s stressed and this happens, it brings about a lot more anxiety, fear response. So we had to have a lot of patience in certain situations with homeowners. And you know, I think we learned the value of — not that this is a great strategy always for life, but you know, act first and figure out the details later. I think there was a big chance that we could have — we could have stalled or frozen when it happened and said, “We’re not prepared to respond to this. We’re not ready. We don’t know what to do.” But we took a different approach and said, “Show up. We’ll give you something to do, and you can figure out the rest along the way [0:41:00].” And that gave people permission to say, “I don’t have to be an expert. I don’t have to know everything about everything.” But for people to be able to say, “When this came, I was a part of it. I did — I did what I could.” And people were very generous with their time and their resources and everything throughout that process.
So yeah, it was — it was a — it was a pivotal moment in the life of our community. And I think that it changed our church in a lot of positive ways, too, so. I will say also that there are a number of groups, one called Houston Responds that is trying to coordinate efforts between churches [0:42:00], businesses, the Red Cross, non-profits to essentially set us up better so that we’ll be better prepared for the future — so that when it hits, you know this church is a shelter. This church is providing food. This school is providing Red Cross care and so on. And you know, even a year after this, we’re still putting those networks together. But there is — there’s a real marked desire to be better prepared next time — and so that the churches and groups that were scrambling at the beginning won’t have to do that as much next time and be that much quicker to get out and provide the help that’s needed.
DH: So are you doing that, by chance, within Kingwood? Or you are doing it with a bigger picture with all of Houston?
MR: Right, so the group, like I said, is call Houston Responds [0:43:00]. And they received some grant money, and they have a handful of stuff that their main job is really coordination work. And northwest Houston has done a lot in the Cy-Fair area to really get organized. There are some really good networks in central Houston. And we’re actually working with them to hopefully set up a handful of pastors, community leaders that can really start doing that for the Kingwood/Humble/Atascocita area.
DH: That’s good. Alright, well, thank you.
MR: My pleasure. Thank you for getting these stories down. And it’s a — it’s one of those things where — like you said, you asked a question. And you really have to go back over — not only over a year but go back through four weeks of different engagements and stories and people. And I’ll probably walk out of here and say, “Oh, I should have told that story,” but it’s —
DH: You can always call me [0:44:00].
DH: Or send it to me an email.
MR: Sure, sure. But no, thank you.
DH: Thank you. [0:44:08]
because Kingwood, Texas contains a comma all other items on the list should be separated by semicolons[HZ1]
Not sure this is really relevant to his Harvey story.[HZ3]
faith seems more appropriate here. Was this his wording?[HZ4]
i thought that was just to help the one family they were friends with[HZ5]
Initially they weren’t rea[pairing, they were doing muck and gut. [HZ6]
this seems very vague. let’s talk aobut whether or not it should be more specific or if it should remain generic.[HZ7]