An exposed house frame and remnants of personal belongings showed what once was a beautiful, two-story home. An abundance of light shone through windows placed at the uppermost part of the wall, illuminating the rubble-filled living room, while sounds of sheetrock and nails hitting the ground filled the home.
Gaye Stephens stood in the middle of what was left of her kitchen. A team of middle school and high school students from BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery worked around her, bringing the first signs of life and laughter into a bleak situation.
The first words she spoke, as she took a moment to look around were simply, “this gives us hope.”
Gaye, her husband, Jack, and their dog lived in the Bear Creek community of Houston for 30 years. The community was known for their friendly neighbors, exemplary school-system and magnificent tree-lined streets. But a community that was once full of life became completely desolate. On Aug. 25, 2017, Gaye’s home, like thousands of others, was hit by Hurricane Harvey.
She recalled the day of the storm. “We were picked up in a boat. There was six feet of water in the street, right at our front door. We went to a shelter that evening, then to Austin to stay with family.”
Two weeks later, Gaye and her husband returned to Houston to see what was left of the place they called home for decades. As they drove through their neighborhood and opened the door to their house, they were hit with a heartbreaking reality. Their home had been filled with sewer water for two weeks. Furniture was still floating inside. “We lost everything,” she said.
She shared her story alongside David Scott, director of BOUNCE and Pike Wisner, pastor of First Baptist Church of Tyler, whose students were helping repair her house. They both listened compassionately to what Gaye had to say.
As Pastor Wisner looked at her, he explained how her house was a last-minute redirect for his team. He was expecting to be putting up sheetrock at another home, but an unaffiliated group showed up unannounced and completed the work. It wasn’t until the night before that he had discovered where they would be going.
He continued to talk to her, speaking of the Lord’s faithfulness to put his team exactly where they needed to be amidst changing plans. “This is where God has brought us,” he said.
Incredulously, Gaye thanked him.
Gaye described the current state of their neighborhood as a “ghost town.” Families have moved and many homes have been broken into.
“It’s really not even about the stuff. It’s the memories, the friends, all of the most important things that are the hardest to lose,” she said, fighting through tears. “We bought our home here because of the community, and now our friends are moving out. But the hope is that we can rebuild not only our home, but the whole community and get the neighborhood back where it was.”
During the three Spring Break BOUNCE mission trips, 477 BOUNCERS, representing 24 Texas Baptists churches, had 47 spiritual conversations with homeowners. As a result, there were 15 professions of faith.
For more information about how your church can be a part of BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery, visit texasbaptists.org/bounce.