What’s Next? Hope after Harvey

fullsizerender.jpg

Partnering with Academy Sports and the East Houston Civic Club to get inflatable beds to 130 infants who were sleeping on the ground.

Snark MeterrealMID.003

Years from now I suspect what most will remember of Harvey, besides 50 inches of rain in 4 days, was Houstonians rushing to rescue one another. Rescue quickly gave way to relief as we gathered supplies, distributed food, and mucked homes. Six weeks later, for many of us, the mucking is done, the enormous trash piles mostly hauled away. Much of Houston is on the road to recovery: putting life back (mostly) the way it was…removing the dank stench of mold and bringing back the thousands of houses stripped to the studs for the families who call them home.

But what of Houston’s poor? Families at or below the poverty line are often devastated by events such as Harvey. Without flood insurance or financial margin, the poor often find themselves in dire situations as employment is interrupted and expenses pile up. As in Katrina, the forces of gentrification are upon them. Letters have already begun to appear on the doors of the poor telling them their houses will need to be brought up to code or be condemned. People have been forced from apartments but still forced to pay half rent. What people need in large portions of our city is not recovery but sensible, sensitive rebuilding.

There are neighborhoods in Houston for whom Harvey provides an opportunity, a chance to make neighborhoods better than they were…rebuilt into places with access to fresh food, job training, and affordable housing. This is where we at St. John the Divine are focussing next. We have established partnerships with churches from a variety of denominations in the Northeast and Northshore neighborhoods. We have mobilized hundreds of hours and people to work in those neighborhoods. We will begin hosting outside teams at St. John the Divine to help in the rebuilding effort. We will do what our neighborhood partners tell us is needed, and we will emphasize long-range change over charity. We will leverage what we have historically been very good at: connecting the big hearts of Houstonians with big needs. Swinging a hammer is good, but, as Jim Loftis says, its’ time to weaponize our rolodexes.

We’ve done it before. We are about to do it again.

Lives will be changed. The Good News will be shared. God will be glorified.

Join us!

“The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?”     -Zechariah 8:5-6, NIV

22405585_10154846847432341_7732747014018825019_n

North Shore Community Fellowship of Faith

Advertisements

Loving Houston from a distance

gettyimages-840239148.jpg

Snark MeterrealMID.003A week ago, while boarding a plane to lead a retreat in Maryland, I naively commented that I was sad to be leaving Houston before my first hurricane. After all, one is not “Real Houston” until you have been there and done that.

That was ignorance speaking.

A week later Harvey has moved on. Behind is the devastation of 50” of rain pummeling one place for four days. Friends and colleagues left their homes with nothing but the drenched clothes on their backs. Friends floated their families out of their neighborhood on air mattresses and pool toys. A few, people with lives and loved ones and stories, didn’t make it out at all.

My wife and teams of our young adults have spent this week gutting homes that were knee deep in flood waters and backed up sewage in a race against the mold that will turn those homes toxic. And all the while, I remain in Baltimore due to airport closures and having booked with an airline that has a single daily flight to Houston. So, like most of you, I have had to love from a distance.

From a distance I worry about those who will spend months in shelters and hotels and friend’s spare bedrooms. I worry about those unable to work and pay bills and buy groceries and gasoline to get back to work when (or if ) their jobs reopen. For thousands, Harvey’s aftermath will mean a second move: the move into poverty.

Knowing that I am on staff at a Houston church that sends more than 1/3 of every dollar directly out our door to others, and that I have some experience serving “the least of these,” many have asked, “What can I do?”* Here is how you can provide helpful help right now:

  1. Pray. Really. (James 5:16) “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.” (Ps. 29:10) The storm is never the last word!
  2. Stop. Don’t load up a flatbed with blankets and bring 100 of your closest friends next week. That day will come. Right now, shelters, hotels and churches are filled. The last thing Harvey hit areas need right now is more bodies. Don’t send the flatbed with the blankets either. The list of what shelters needs changes daily. If you send it, chances are good your generosity will end up not being used.
  3. Give money. Money is flexible. Money can be used to buy kids groceries and clothes. We spent $1200 today on supplies like masks and gloves to help teams tear out carpet, drywall and cabinets. Thousands of workers will need Hep C and tetanus shots. People (church parishioners and church’s local mission partners with folk in dire financial positions) will need help because people on the bubble will not be able to work hourly jobs, but their expenses won’t stop.

How to give cash? Find a charity you trust. Give some to small local charities…local charities do good work with real people. Give some to church-based national charities. National charities have broad experience. Lots of large secular charities pay huge salaries and have large advertising budgets that church-based charities usually do not have. (For example Episcopal Relief and Development sends 84% directly to programs rather than admin or fundraising).

Here is one place I trust: http://www.sjd.org/harvey/

Thank you for loving from a distance. The Gulf Coast needs you!

21150128_10156002946823268_6898760978681605840_n.jpg

Tuesday clothing collections at St. John the Divine

*If you count the staff necessary to accomplish that, it is more like 50% of the budget of the Church of St. John the Divine goes outside our doors.