The air is swampy down here. There’s a musty smell everywhere you go. The only thing that smells good is the occasional front yard bonfire as people incinerate their household items before the mold rots them.
Everything else is on the curb, stacked high. A solidarity of devastation, no home is spared. It’s kind of sad to see people’s possessions like this, a premature disposal of a lifetime of accumulation. Maybe things they couldn’t sell in the last garage sale ; maybe things that they had spent their whole life saving to obtain. A couch from Grandma. A treasured chest of drawers. Clothes for school.
What’s in your pile?
I’m down in Houston for work, assigned a specific role to help my organization participate in the recovery of a record rainfall that nearly washed this city into the Gulf.
The day was long, as I was talking with leaders about just what to do next. I leaned into their minds as they calculated moving from Point A to Point B, all the while wading through scarce resources, impacted employees, and entire portions of the city still under feet of water.
I had a team working with me and others supporting from afar, but it was still exhausting work. There are never enough hours when lives and well being depend on you. But there is still a time when the brain says “enough” and you have to call it a day.
I haven’t been to the worst parts of the city — that comes tomorrow. But what little I’ve seen is enough to drown my apathy.I left, thinking about filling my stomach that had gone all day on pint of yogurt and a cup of bad hotel coffee. I drove on the road toward the Shrimp Palace that promised a feast in the brightest lights that I spotted form the hotel. On the way, I spotted two massive churches. Their neon signs are working and their grounds were tidy. And not a block away were two little churches, just a few hundred feet from each other.
One was a little Cambodian Baptist Church. They had a big pile of rugs, chairs, and papers all heaped outside in the parking lot. But the used the occasion it seems to gather and to celebrate. There were chairs on the lawn and long tables full of food with women scooping with two spoons. The children were playing tag and the men were admiring the task that lay ahead.
And the other church was this one — New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church.
I slowed down to gawk, to peer into the open doors like a freeway lookie loo hoping to glance into someone else’s misery and hope it’s not so bad. But two sets of eyes looked back at me before I could glance away. I sped up.
Then I felt guilty and turned around. Then I began to fight the inner fight on the road back. “This isnt’ your problem. They will be okay. There are hundreds of thousands of others.” You know the voices.
And then there was this final argument, the Evil One’s trump card. “You’re just one man.”That got me, catching my logic at just the right moment of selfishness. I pulled in the driveway and sped away.
But then my mantra, my promise returned to me. I heard it shout. “Just Say Yes.”
If you don’t know it, I have vowed to Just Say Yes to every opportunity that God puts before me. And I’ll trust him with the result.
So I flipped back and walked right into the church. The eyes were on me right away. I am not the color of their normal attendee. I was dressed like a corporate media spokesperson – which I am. I looked a little …out of place. And I was.
I met the Pastor, Timothy Maddux. I didn’t waste a lot of time. “Please tell me your story and how I can help.”
He told that I could just pray. And ask others to pray. I asked about the damage. “Not too bad he told me,” but I could smell the water soaking still and I could hear the fans blowing across the soggy carpet. “We are blessed.” I looked for insincerity, but I found none. He was counting his blessings, naming them one by one.
He showed me the rooms that got it the worst — his study and the children’s Sunday School room. I saw his book shelf and the creep of the water on the pages of his trusty texts.
After I asked him, he admitted that yes, he had lost quite a few books. And his associate had lost almost all of his books. And the children’s Sunday School material too.
I then went there, something I picked up from Deidra Riggs who first encouraged us white folks to go where we are most uncomfortable. I admitted to Pastor Maddox that I went to a fairly white church in the suburbs. We aren’t that way by choice, but it’s the way of man I guess. I told him that we aren’t racist, that we are sorry for the mess this world is in, and that we have been praying for Houston. And that now, we would pray for him.
We went outside and looked at the pile of books. A soggy Bible. Stacks of literature. Books worn from study. All ruined.
Can you help me replace these books? It’s not much in the scheme of things. But this faithful assembly of brothers and sisters are simply trying to make a difference. And now we can.
I have a GoFundMe page if you would like to help this little church move on.