‘We Really Were The Hands And Feet Of Christ Helping Those In Need’

Harvey trip members

Royse City UMC member Dean Gilkinson shares thoughts on participating in Hurricane Harvey relief trip

“Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief? That was two years ago!”

Those were the words that first came to mind when I read the email from my pastor. He had received a request sent out to the churches of the North Texas Conference from the Center for Missional Outreach asking for individuals and teams to continue the recovery work needed in the Rio Texas Conference in South Texas – specifically Victoria and the surrounding areas. My pastor asked if I would consider volunteering and maybe asking others in our church to participate.

It didn’t take long for me to contact Rev. Clay Womack. My family and I had been through Hurricane Hugo while living in South Carolina in 1989, so I knew how it feels to have your life rattled by Mother Nature. But before I recommended the experience to others, I needed to see what it was about for myself.

From the moment I received my first contact from Pastor Clay, I knew this mission trip would be different from others in which I had participated. The focus from the very beginning was prayer – for the people still affected, for those helping daily in the area and for those participating on the mission trip. The sign-up process online was easy, and the required forms were straight-forward. As the date got closer, there was even a trip meeting to help explain the process and to coordinate any special needs and requirements. In my case, I needed transportation – not a problem.

On Thursday morning, we packed my tools in the bed of the truck, lifted up a prayer and set off for Victoria. There were three of us in the truck, so we started off with introductions and talked our way along the trip, getting to know each other a bit more with every mile we traveled. We arrived at the church in Victoria mid-afternoon and unloaded our gear. We were some of the first onsite, so, as others arrived, we helped them unload. Later that evening, we met to finalize the game plan for the next few days. For this trip, we were divided between three different locations based upon our skills and abilities. You could certainly feel the Spirit moving in the group that night.

Friday morning was a blur of activity. We met for a fine breakfast prepared especially for us by a man who volunteers as “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer“ for nearly every trip. Not only does Randy do the cooking and cleanup, but he also assures every special dietary need is covered. During breakfast, a Rio Texas Mission coordinator discussed the work assignment for the day and then ensured we had the right supplies and equipment needed onsite.

Harvey repairs

A Rio Texas Mission coordinator would check on us several times during the day to answer any questions and re-supply us as necessary. I took notice that every time coordinators met with us, they thanked us for being there.

We worked about seven hours the first day and felt like we had really accomplished something. After showers and dinner, we met for scripture discussion and reflection led by one of our three pastors on this trip. Even as tired as we were, I think most felt a recharge to our body and soul as we turned in for the night.

Saturday morning came fast, and the day was pretty much a repeat of the previous day: breakfast, discussions, work assignments, prayer and travel to the work site. Then, a full day of completing our tasks culminated with another great dinner and group scripture discussions.   

On Sunday morning, there was a greater sense of urgency as this was to be our last day of work on our respective projects. Those who had completed all of their work joined with teams at the other sites. As the workday drew to a close and we shared a final dinner together, we had a sense that we really were the hands and feet of Christ helping those in need and showing love in the communities where we worked.

I have been back several weeks, and I’ve been asked if I had “fun” and if I had “enjoyed” it. The answer I give now is that we worked hard, and I was worn out every day – but filled with a lot of joy. It is a wonderful experience when you meet up with a bunch of like-minded folks and work for a common goal – that being improving the living conditions of some of God’s people. And, yes, I recommend it to everyone who asks.

If you are wondering if you should go, then the answer is “yes.”  Start by reading more at here.

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2019