LERT Team from St. Peter – Hampshire, Illinois Share Stories of Compassion and Faith During Recovery Efforts in Texas
Bob and Jean Warfel, St. Peter – Hampshire, Illinois, team leaders and some of their team recently traveled to the coastal bend area of Texas to help residents still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey which left many communities still devastated. From November 4 – November 18, the team worked long hours to bring physical assistance and hope in Jesus Christ to everyone to they met.
LERT team members who deployed to Texas include: Bob & Jean Warfel, Rebecca & Mike Hemme, Jr., Mike Hemme, Sr., Ryan Anthenat, Chris Lewis from St. Peter - Hampshire, Illinois and Steve Black from St. John's - Dillsboro, Indiana
Communities of Port Aransas and Rockport feel forgotten
Since Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the earthquakes in Mexico and the fires in California, the people of Port Aransas and Rockport feel they have been forgotten. The team was told that they feel the help they were offered after Hurricane Harvey only happened in the first few weeks and that help is now gone. Christian groups like ours were the only ones still coming in to help. These people are grateful that there was little loss of life, but they are tired of the cleanup, piles on their curbs and know there is still a great deal of work to be done. Much of what is still needed in Port Aransas is debris cleanup. Backhoes and skidsters are in great demand as are prayers. They are being told that the FEMA crews clearing the ditches won't be there much longer and that when they are gone the debris removal will be up to the home and business owners.
Here are just a few stories of how these dedicated LERT volunteers brought mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and in need.
Helping family with adjoining property
Like many residents, Jordan and her uncle’s adjoining property were hit by Hurricane Harvey with many of the trees damaged in their yards and her uncle's home to be demolished. The LERT team worked clearing trees and limbs from both properties. Each homeowner was given a quilt as well as gift cards from generous donations from the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church - Hampshire. St. Peter’s LERT team puts together several types of "disaster care packages" for those affected by storms. These care packages are for adults through children, and the people of Southern Texas were moved by the gifts, prayers and donations of people they haven't met. It was a pleasure to listen to their stories and pray for their continued healing.
Clearing land passed down through generations
A resident in Rockport, Sandy, has lived on her ranch her entire life. The storm surge pushed 15-18' of water over her ranch taking away her and her son's trailer homes. Our job was to cut down uprooted mesquite trees and to move large piles of debris. In order to rebuild, residents must produce the title to their land. She does not have one as this land was given to her grandfather by a handshake. If it can be proven that this is her land, new regulations say that rebuilding projects must be up to current codes. Many of the residents of Rockport did not have insurance and would not have the money to rebuild anything up to code. Sandy and her friend's stories were not the exception but the rule in the Rockport and Port Aransas areas. We pray that they find the help they need and ability to rebuild for their futures.
Not just dragging branches but listening and comforting
Mirko was originally from Yugoslavia. Last year, he started building a new home for his 92 year old mother and him to live in. She died shortly before Hurricane Harvey arrived, and Mirko felt her loss intensely. As Jean listened to his wonderful stories, Mirko told her that they were the first people that took the time to listen to his stories, and he presented her with a 2017 Yugoslavian calendar with a picture of his mother's building on the cover. That reminded Jean of why she is a LERT team member. She doesn't really go to drag tree branches, she goes to listen and offer any comforting words God's Holy Spirit puts into her heart and mind. Mirko was most impressed about the cross carved in a tree stump near his home. His future is bright as he is engaged and looks forward to the day he can move into his completed house.
There is still a lot of help needed for the long term recovery efforts in these communities. LCC is truly blessed by the St. Peter - Hampshire LERT team of talented members and thanks them for dedicating their time to serve communities still devastated by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Thankful for help removing steel
The LERT Team was asked to go to a property and move some mangled steel from the frame of a trailer home with their equipment to the curb for the FEMA trucks to remove the debris. Barbara was so happy that they had come to move the steel debris as she had no means to get it to the curb and the steel was sitting on the area her new trailer home was going.
Helping those who can’t physically do it themselves
The LERT team was asked to go to Colleen's property to remove debris from her front yard. Colleen had heard that there was only going to be one more FEMA pickup and everything had to be to the curb at the end of the weekend. Colleen said, "neither of us is in great physical condition, but we were going to see how much we could get done." Jean gave her a quilt, disaster care bag, and gift card. She became very emotional as she said the quilt reminded her of one her mother-in-law had made. How perfect that God put the team in this place to help complete a project in an hour that would've taken her and her husband a weekend!
Strengthening neighbors friendship through God’s love in action
Laura has 3-4 acres of land in Rockport that was a tangled mess of downed trees overlapping each other, hanging branches, and tangled tall grass. The team was moved by God putting them in this place to help clear this large property as well as to help the trailer delivery crew. When the team was ready to leave, this yard looked like a beautiful park, the family had plenty of firewood stacked, and there were two crosses cut into tree trunks. This family knows that a merciful God is watching out for their well-being. It was the LERT team’s pleasure to be of help, and they are grateful that God moved her neighbor to ask them to help her. The team witnessed these neighbors making a new friendship and bond. What a blessing to be able to see God's love in action!
Much devastation remains in Port Aransas, Texas
Port Aransas, Texas, is an island community located Southwest of Rockport and Northeast of Corpus Christi. It also received the first and strongest winds Hurricane Harvey had to offer. To get to the island, the quickest route was by a short ferry ride. There was still much devastation in Port Aransas, Texas. Most buildings had either minimal roof or siding damage or were partially or completely gone. This is primarily a tourist town, and only a few businesses were open. Their gas stations, restaurants, and homes were ripped apart. Some rebuilding was taking place, but most of the island was still in the process of gutting buildings and clearing widespread debris.
Help still desperately needed in Rockport communities
It was sad for the St. Peter – Hampshire LERT team to see pieces of people's homes in the middle of fields and roads in Rockport and the area East of Rockport while heading for Houston. Metal and paper debris was widespread, and most areas were within close range of the Gulf of Mexico. How amazing the power of the winds and water surge! This area has numerous RV parks, and many of them had units that were destroyed and abandoned. Many areas are just getting their power restored and there are other pockets that still don't have any electric several months after the storm. It will take years for the clean-up and recovery of this area, and the team prayed that these communities receive the much needed help they deserve.