What’s most surprising about life after a major flood is how normal so many things seem. It’s as if on certain streets the cleaning crew has come through to make the most visible parts of the city beautiful again.
There were blue skies on most days of our visit, and it was nearly impossible to find any significant amount of collected water. There were whole streets where houses and businesses stood unscathed because, in Houston, the flood was a game of inches.
Untouched houses usually only sat a few inches higher than their flooded neighbors. And, of course, many houses were submerged as high as 4 feet. For some, it was just a heavy rain that made the news. For others, it was a loss of everything they had worked their whole lives for, including keepsake valuables and other priceless artifacts.
The seeming normalcy that some areas had returned to was punctuated by neighborhood after debris-filled neighborhood where life has not returned to normal. By the time Samaritan’s Purse arrived, all that was left of the flood were the homeowners staring unbelieving at their waterlogged homes. Many didn’t have flood insurance.
Every homeowner had a heartfelt response when teams from Samaritan’s Purse showed up to do days’ worth of work for free in Jesus’ Name. One of my favorite responses was from a gentleman named Wilford Simpson who, with his wife, was responsible for a daughter and four foster kids. They escaped on a personal watercraft through 3 feet of water.
“When y’all described what y’all were gonna do, it put me at a standstill,” Wilford said. “I’m hearing what you said, and it’s registering about as slow as molasses in the wintertime. I’m thinking, ‘So they’re going to come in, and they’re going to clean everything out … and they’re going to do it for free?’ I’m still in shock.”
Like a Ghost
When floods hit a city, it’s similar to how I imagine a cloud of locusts might quietly fill a horizon before closing in. You know what’s coming is not good, and you just wait and hope. And almost as quickly as they come, they’re gone—leaving destruction in their wake like a noxious ghost passing through ruining everything with putrid water.
Hours of destruction translate into months or more of recovery. But like the locusts and other plagues in the Old Testament, a natural disaster like a flood can also magnify our weakness and point us to something or Someone much more powerful than us. Where the tumultuous currents brought destruction and filth and then vanished, Samaritan’s Purse brought beauty and hope and restoration in a sea of orange shirts in Jesus’ Name.
Editor’s note: In addition to our Houston deployment, we have an ongoing response in West Monroe, Louisiana, which was pummeled by the same March storm system. Our successful and fruitful deployments in nearby Bossier City, Louisiana, and Orange County, Texas, have been completed. Between these three deployments that started in March, we have helped well over 300 homeowners, and more than 110 individuals have received salvation in Jesus Christ.