The Lord is with those who turn to him in prayer, often on bended knee. Many who are serving Him in Texas after the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey are also finding themselves on their knees, at work salvaging homes flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey.
Countless small acts of kindness and service have taken away some of the pain experienced by Harvey’s victims. And in many cases, people have been able to draw on their faith and leverage organizational skills and selfless efforts to help make a huge difference in people’s lives.
Among the most active — and best organized — groups providing relief efforts are “Mormon Helping Hands,” sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Volunteers in Houston started working before the clouds cleared and continue to work every day, joined by members and others from near and far. To help members respond to the call to serve, there’s a twist to LDS Church “Sunday services” throughout Houston.
Instead of scheduling a three-hour block of Sunday meetings, abbreviated one-hour meetings were held Sept. 3 and are again scheduled Sept. 10. Multiple wards that meet in the same building or wards that usually meet in buildings that flooded may meet together. Members who want leave directly after meeting to participate in flood relief work parties or other service are invited to come in work clothes or plan to change from “Sunday dress.”
On Sept 3, on the stand in one meeting house — the Houston Texas Stake’s Bering Building — were the bishops of four wards — Memorial Park 1st Ward, Memorial Park 2nd Ward, MacGregor Ward and Houston 1st Ward (Spanish). In the congregation were a generous spattering of yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” shirts and, among the members, numerous friends and neighbors who had come to help.
“You may ask why we don’t just do this every Sunday,” said Stake President Dean Andersen. “We gain strength from each other by spending time together in meetings, but when there is a need for immediate service, we want to be there for our neighbors.”
After the abbreviated meeting, during which the Sacrament was served and speakers alternated between Spanish and English, each bishop directed those in his ward who wanted to participate in service activities to various areas of the building and its grounds.
Designated leaders sent volunteers to work sites, including somewhere “Mormon Helping Hands” teams had already started “mucking out” houses. Some of the thousands of lunches of donated food in plastic bags that had been prepared at work parties held earlier were passed out, along with bottled water.
Some volunteers were sent to canvas areas that had flooded to see if help was needed.
Others were directed to homes of members who had not been contacted after the storm to make sure that they were okay.
At the end of the day, a Facebook posting by Timothy Hickman, Memorial Park 2nd Ward Bishop, reflects the joy and feeling of accomplishment gained from giving service by one of hundreds of similar teams working throughout Houston:
“Today, groups from our church congregation completed muck-outs on four homes, logged 153 work hours, provided lunches and cool water/Gatorade to hundreds, and found at least 30 of our members who we had not been able to contact before today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your efforts!”