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Aug 30, 2017

Harvey Update 8-30-17

From Bishop Andy Doyle, Wednesday, August 30, 2017 

Includes: Bishop’s message, Stages of Disaster, How to Connect, Spiritual Care Teams, Resources

Today, from Palacios to Liberty and Orange, we are faced with continued rising water, flooding and chemical leaks; meanwhile, our neighbors in East Texas and Louisiana are being hammered by Harvey. Those in west Houston have their eyes on the levees, which are due to crest sometime Thursday at 56 feet. Additionally, there is another low in the Gulf of Mexico that may become Tropical Storm or Hurricane Jose by Sunday or Monday.

Our prayers are for those who wait and watch and weep today for loss of life, home and livelihood. We pray for those who are in the midst of the storm and who await rescue and relief. In the meantime those who are able are helping those who are dependent upon the kindness of others. One of the most heartening things about this horrific weather event is witnessing neighbors helping neighbors in both small and enormous ways.

Episcopal Relief and Development’s president, Rob Radke, has said understanding the phases of a disaster can be helpful in determining how one can offer help. Most disasters have three distinct, if possible overlapping phases: rescue, relief and recovery. 

Phase 1 - Rescue
The Rescue phase is focused on saving lives and securing property, and is most acute in those parts of a region that are directly flooded. Police, fire departments and other government agencies are best able to do this work. They have equipment that can clear roads and debris and find people. The Rescue phase can take one to two weeks, sometimes longer. In the case of Harvey, the disaster continues so the Rescue phase is taking place in the midst of the crisis.

Phase 2 - Relief
The next is the Relief phase. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and our partners began preparing for this phase as soon as it was clear how massive Harvey was going to be. During this phase, the local church will be one of the first places people go to seek assistance and shelter. Because they are prepared and experienced in disaster response, we know that our partners in Texas and elsewhere will be active in the Relief phase. This is where ERD is focusing its resources right now. 

Phase 3 - Recovery
Eventually, we get to the third and final phase: Recovery. During this period, the emphasis shifts to restoring services, repairing houses and buildings, returning individuals to self-sufficiency and rebuilding communities. The challenge of the Recovery phase is that most of the television cameras have moved on, but the human suffering has grown. It is a chronic state, not a crisis. However, it is the phase in which the Church excels, because we are part of the communities that have been impacted and can best identify needs and work with the community to address them efficiently.

This is a helpful reminder that what we are engaged in is a response that is immediate as we move from rescue, to short-term as we help with relief, and long term as we put our shoulders to the work of recovery across the fifty counties affected by the storm. More than 30,000 people are now in shelters and that number grows hourly. 

How to Connect
We are most grateful for the initiative of our rectors who got togehter to offer immediate aid. Our Dean, the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, has coordinated their efforts in Houston as a network for relief and restoration efforts across Greater Houston. Outside of Houston, rector's and their congregations are invited to join their efforts.

"Six of Houston's largest Episcopal parishes--Christ Church Cathedral, St. Martin's, St. John the Divine, St. Mark's, Palmer Memorial, St. Francis, and Holy Spirit--have laid the groundwork for these efforts,” Dean Thompson said. “Christy Orman, who regularly serves as director of the Cathedral Urban Service Experience (CUSE) program, has been designated Hurricane Relief Coordinator and will chart assets that these six parishes can bring to bear upon hurricane relief, both immediately and in the longer term. Christy is also fielding calls and emails from the many Episcopal parishes, schools and other organizations—within and outside of the Diocese—and logging offers of aid, assistance and need. Finally, Christy is actively connecting with aid and relief agencies throughout the city to gauge places of need and will begin to connect these in the most efficient manner as soon as is viable,” he added.

Orman’s contact information is: , 713.590.3313 (O) and or 832.915.0223 (M).

Our churches in need of help should contact the Rev. Canon Joann Saylors with specific needs so that we can put the appropriate team of diocesan staff together for you. She will coordinate with Orman and our disaster relief coordinator, the Ven. Russ Oechsel.

Be Safe and Donate
Your donations will ensure that the Diocese of Texas and Episcopal Relief and Development have the resources to help our most vulnerable neighbors immediately. Contribute to EDOT or ERD today. Many churches are also accepting donations. In the past, we have helped thousands of people through Episcopal Relief and Development and we are grateful for this continued partnership and for the help they offer us today. 

Be a Neighbor and Help a Neighbor
While the danger still remains, serve your neighbors. If you are in a flood-affected area, roll up your sleeves and help the people next door. If you are good shape, find a shelter where you can serve. If you are outside the affected area and are interested in helping in the long term, register your availability, gifts and capacity to help with our coordinator, Christy Orman (see note above).

To be good stewards of our gifts of time, treasure and talent, it is important to be patient, even in the face of great need, so that we can best utilize what is offered where there is a need. Another option for volunteers is to register with Episcopal Relief & Development’s Ready to Serve database. This list of volunteers will be shared with the impacted dioceses once they are ready to use and support volunteers.

Make sure you know what is needed and only donate what a shelter requests. Make sure you have an outlet for any donations your church may take in and that you have a delivery mechanism. Our experience in Texas after many disasters is that halls get cluttered with good intentions and used clothing that is not helpful. So, be clear about the list, where it goes and who is going to use it. 

Financial donations can always be used to purchase exactly what is needed locally in any situation and also allow for stimulation of the local economy, which needs to recover as well. This is a great article about the challenges of communities receiving donated goods.

Spiritual Care Teams
The Ven. Russ Oechsel, archdeacon and diocesan disaster relief coordinator has already begin to visit with flood victims. He will develop a long range plan this week and begin to deploy more teams by Friday.

Wednesday, he, along with Deacons Mary Reddick and Portia Sweet (from Ascension and St. Christopher’s, Houston respectively) went to Gallery Furniture in West Houston where evacuees have been housed since Monday. Although many had moved on to other locations in shelters or with family, Oechsel said the deacons were able to pray with members of eight families and hear stories of their rescues.

“They were scared,” Oechsel said. “We prayed with them and were glad to see they had received clothing. They felt safe and were super pleased we were there.” Most were sitting on mattresses in the warehouse area or in the business’ cafeteria.

Last spring, Sweet offered St. Christopher's as a meeting place for an interfaith group established by a local Muslim, Syed Ahmed.  The group met for the first time last week and while Ahmed's vision was for the group to seek mutual understanding, he also wanted to find ways to work together. Sweet was grateful she had the opportunity to call on new friends to help when the need arose at Gallery Furniture on Wednesday. 

“Randolph had hit bottom, but was working to put his life back on track,” Sweet said of one of the flood victims with whom she spoke. “He couldn’t get to work and his car was flooded. He needed a ride to the Emergency Center Downtown to get further assistance and I was unable to drive him, but I called on Saed, who gave him ride. I’m delighted I could include our new friends in our flood response efforts,” she said.

Oechsel said he was meeting with other staff on Thursday to organize further care teams that would move into affected areas beginning on Friday this week and he said he envisions satellite locations with coordinators throughout the diocese as rebuilding efforts proceed, much like the ones set up following Hurricane Ike.

Please use these resources if appropriate:

Post-Disaster Ministry Resources 
Ministering to Children After a Disaster – Grades K-5 
Ministering to Youth After a Disaster – Grades 6-8 
Ministering to Teens After a Disaster – Grades 9-12
Ministering to Adults After a Disaster

Sample Prayers and Liturgy
How To: Adapting Liturgy and Ritual After a Disaster

The Mentor Research Institute has developed a resource called The Great Storm and Flood Recovery: Children's Story and Activity Book.

This story and activity book encourages children to fill in the blanks to explore their own experiences as well as color the pictures provided. It addresses the storm that caused the flooding, having to evacuate, cleaning up, rebuilding, as well as the emotional impacts of the flooding. At all points, it gives the child a chance to reflect on their own experience. A parent guide is included. A Spanish Version of the workbook is also available.

If you are heading to a shelter, you could print multiple copies, pick up some twist-able colored pencils (no need to sharpen) and take with you. In the meantime, a group of Christian Educators here in the Diocese of Texas is beginning to explore ways to provide support and resources for families with young children over the recovery period.