Texas Baptist Men

TBM offers help, hope and healing in Southeast Texas after Tropical Depression Imelda

General     2 months ago   by John Hall

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It’s been two years since Hurricane Harvey, but heavy rains still make Bruce Smith nervous. The barrage of water pellets was so intense Sept. 19, he was pacing between rooms of his home at 3 a.m. Eventually, he moved out to his workshop where he began moving his belongings to higher shelves.

He’s fortunate he did. Shortly after placing the last item, he and his wife Renee escaped before one of the wettest storms in United States history, Tropical Depression Imelda, could no longer be held at bay. Water filled the floor of their home, ruining their flooring, carpet, furniture, baseboards and drywall, among other things.

“I went and got my wife and said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’” Smith said as tears welled up in his eyes.

The Smiths’ home is one of more than 14,000 devastated by Imelda, a storm that caught many along the Texas by surprise. Though it wasn’t as large as Harvey, Imelda pelted the region with as much as 42 inches of rain, flooding homes that had just finished rebuilding after Harvey and impacting houses that Harvey didn’t reach.

Five people died as a result of the flood and authorities performed hundreds of rescue operations that saved multitudes.

Even before the rain stopped falling, Texas Baptist Men volunteers were feeding 800 meals a day to first responders and victims of the storm at a convention center in Orange. Conversation accompanied every meal served as the volunteers helped people express what they’d experienced and asked to pray for them. Almost everyone took the volunteers up on the offer. Several individuals came to faith in Christ.

“In the darkest days of our lives, all of us want to know that someone cares,” said Dwain Carter, director of TBM disaster relief. “We care, and as Christians we represent a God who cares about them deeply as well. Many times, we are a physical reminder of how much God truly does love each and every one of us.”

In the days after the storm, TBM’s efforts mushroomed to include a kitchen in Nederland capable of feeding up to 15,000 meals a day for the community. A mud out team of local volunteers began cleaning out the Smiths’ home a few days after the storm. By lunch of the first day, they had removed all the affected drywall, flooring and the furniture the couple hadn’t yet gotten to.

The work is difficult, and in the hot, humid Southeast Texas weather, exhausting. In the first moments of beginning their work, streams of sweat start running down volunteers’ faces. Even with short breaks, the perspiration is incessant.

The team is unhindered. In a few hours, the TBM team accomplishes what it would take days for the Smiths to accomplish. For older people throughout the region, teams do what residents cannot do on their own.

“Make no mistake, clearing out a home after a flood is incredibly hard work,” Carter said. “It requires long hours and grueling effort. By helping people with this effort, teams are jump starting the recovery process for each home. When a team leaves a house, it is ready for reconstruction.”

In the days to come, more TBM mud out teams as well as partners from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee will descend across Southeast Texas and prepare hundreds of homes for reconstruction. The process will be lengthy, but TBM is committed to it.

“God has blessed us immensely,” Carter said. “We want to be a blessing to others by providing help, hope and healing. Whether we’re serving a warm meal or removing a piece of sheetrock, I pray that God guides our words and actions to do just that.”

TBM’s impact on the Smiths is undeniable, Bruce said. Their presence is encouraging. Their work is extremely helpful. Their spirit is incredible.

“It’s amazing the amount of people will come and help you. It’s the wonderful part of this right here, the people will come out here and help, work their rear end off. They’re here for one reason: To help us out. It’s such a blessing,” Smith said.

“It’s just so heartwarming to see them and what they do. This is what Christianity is all about to me. I’m so thankful for family and people like you who come and help us out.”

TBM disaster relief ministries are made possible by gifts from individuals and churches. All gifts designated for disaster relief through TBM are used for disaster relief ministry. To give, visit TBMtx.org/donate.