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Aug 12, 2019 | EDOT Staff

Dancing Into Their New Home

Maria was dancing as she stepped out of the car. She had a curly-haired boy in hand and a blinky-eyed baby on her hip. Other children burst forth from open car doors.  At first, Maria looked like a thousand other mothers who walk with dignity bearing the daily weight of family responsibilities. A single mother with seven children under her wings, Maria was caring for her five children and providing a home for two teenage girls who had recently lost both parents to death and to deportation. But there in the middle of the street, Maria started to dance.

Her face was radiant, and her body moved to music coming from the inside out. Her children joined in the dance. Today was “move-in” day for Maria and her family.

Eighteen months prior, Maria was in her trailer home in a Houston neighborhood when the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey filled the streets and then poured into other homes and businesses. Each hour during the storm brought fear and decisions.

Waist-deep water inside the house propelled them to escape to higher, drier ground. Herding her frightened children, she moved them in one direction, but saw snakes and alligators. Heading another direction, the family found rescue in the bucket of a front-end loader.

After the floodwaters receded, Maria returned with her family to their home only to see that the floodwaters had lifted their trailer off its pilings. The home was twisted and dropped down on the ground, cracking it like an egg from the floor to the joints in the roof. Most of their contents were beyond saving.  Mold was dangerously growing inside, but they had nowhere else to go. Maria started looking for help to patch the roof leaks and make flooring repairs.

In another neighborhood in Houston, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church had formed what they called “Go Groups” – a component of their mission theme of “Worship. Connect. Grow. Go.” The Go small groups were given $1000 of gift cards designated for hurricane relief.  They were to GO find a person or family impacted by the storm and offer assistance.

One of the St. John the Divine “Go Groups” included Bob Schorr and Don Nichols. It was through working with other organizations in the city that Bob and Don learned about the mother of seven who had applied for roof and floor repair assistance. During their site visit, both men quickly noted the severity of the damage to the house, the dangerous health conditions inside it, and the deep need of this family. It was going to take more resources than their “Go Group” currently had. 

Don describes the moment when his friend Bob said: “We can’t repair this house. This family needs a new house. We are going to get them a new house.”

Don said: “Neither of us knew how we could make a new house happen, but I could tell that the Spirit of God was speaking.”

They believed that God said “Go!” not “No!”

Although the intention and the desire to help Maria’s family return to a safe home after a natural disaster became a goal for the organization, they were also conscious of the set-backs they would ultimately face along the process.

As each new obstacle surfaced, Bob said that he knew he might have to stop and say, “No” – that they couldn’t go any further. Their group had already done more than they thought they could. 

While seeking resources to replace the home, Maria’s family received food, clothing, and medication through the Go Group. Temporary housing was secured for the family in a single hotel room.

Lacking cooking facilities, the family travelled back to their now empty lot to cook meals over a fire outside. Meanwhile, Bob and Don sought resources to remove the damaged trailer, prepare the house site, purchase and transport a new manufactured home, and furnish and prepare the home for occupancy. Bob and Don soon started to realize that their wish to help Maria’s family was becoming true because they found the support from other partners and organizations.

After many months of being displaced, Maria and her children finally danced into their new home in February 2019. They danced to the music of thanksgiving for the blessing of people in the many organizations, including the Diocese of Texas,[i]who partnered together to sow and grow hope.

One of Maria’s sons held a welcome mat high with the greeting “Bienvenidos” as the family kicked off their muddy shoes before entering their new home. Maria’s eldest son danced in his stocking feet saying, “This feels like a mansion to me!” As youth volunteers from Youth Reach Houston worked for hours moving and assembling couches, tables, beds and chairs, Maria’s toddler sat on the floor using his toy tools to help.

The house was blessed not with floodwater but a sprinkle of clean holy water, Bible verses and prayer. The children each received their own Bibles. They unpacked dishes, pondered where to put the wall hooks for their towels, and flopped with glee on freshly made beds. The dance of gratitude and the spirit of joy lasted throughout the day.

Bob and Don know that they have not lifted Maria and her family out of poverty. The family has deep challenges ahead of them. Maria knows that she has been given a great gift of a healthy, safe place to care for her family. The burden of that responsibility continues for her, but she has an opportunity to keep hoping and to keep dancing.

Like Maria, there are tens of thousands of others that have been impacted by Harvey and who are still in need of help and hope. Not a single person or an organization can respond to all their needs. Although the obstacles can be overwhelming along the way, it takes courage and partners to say “Go! We can do this. We can help.”  Your diocesan Hurricane Recovery team still needs volunteers to bring them home.  Will you join us?  http://bit.ly/HarveyDioTX

Maria’s new home and furnishings were sponsored in part by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas Hurricane Recovery program and Episcopal Relief & Development.

The Diocese of Texas, through its partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, is reaching out to assist families for whom conventional disaster recovery mechanisms fall short. Contact the Hurricane Recovery team at

 

  • [i] John the Divine Episcopal Church, Houston
  • Baker Ripley
  • Christian Tabernacle
  • Diocese of Texas Hurricane Recovery Program
  • Episcopal Relief and Development
  • Faith Lutheran Church, Dickinson
  • High Socks for Hope
  • United Way of Greater Houston
  • Youth Reach Houston

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