A survivor’s message for Harvey victims: ‘God has not left you alone’
Angela Marsalis says she can't even watch the news because…
NEDERLAND, Texas — This town of about 18,000 souls, 90 minutes east of Houston, didn’t receive the media attention bigger cities got after Hurricane Harvey dumped 30 trillion gallons of water on Texas, destroying or damaging nearly 200,000 homes.
After other hurricanes hit Florida and Puerto Rico, Nederland and other small Texas communities seemed to be left, for the most part, on their own.
The Nederland Avenue Church of Christ began relief efforts immediately after Harvey, serving nearby cities including Beaumont and Port Arthur. Michael Williams, the church’s minister, encountered families dealing with the loss of their home, furniture, everything.
“A woman told me it was surreal to see your whole life just sitting out on the curb,” Williams said.
After the TV cameras moved on, the church continues to serve.
And other churches have assisted — one of them 1,200 miles away.
Presley Roan, a 16-year-old member of the Brooks Avenue Church of Christ in Raleigh, N.C., is a fan of Home Free, an a cappella country band. Tim Foust, who sings bass for Home Free, is a native of Nederland. His mother, Dena Foust, runs her son’s merchandise website.
Roan corresponded with Dena Foust through the website and learned that she was a member of the Nederland Avenue church.
Roan also learned that Dena Foust and her daughter, Emily Forse, were coordinating their church’s disaster relief efforts. The 16-year-old saw an opportunity for ministry.
“When God calls you to do something, you shouldn’t hesitate,” Roan said. “You just do it.”
The Brooks Avenue church began a collection of relief items for the Nederland area. Church members, friends and family gathered cleaning supplies, household goods, baby items, school supplies and more — specific items that Dena Foust said the affected families needed.
Soon, the Raleigh church had a large trailer filled and on its way to Nederland, hauled by James Green and fellow members of the Brooks Avenue disaster relief team. The volunteers delivered the donations to churches in Nederland, Beaumont and Port Arthur. Then the North Carolina church members stayed to help with the clean-up efforts.
“You go to a neighborhood of 200 houses, and every one of them is empty,” said team member James Green. “It’s hard to believe.”
Another member, Darby Austen, added, “The first couple days, you’re in shock because of the devastation, seeing folks lose everything. People were so grateful for the help, so while there was plenty of sorrow, there was a great amount of joy.”
Brad Forest, an elder of the Brooks Avenue church, said, “We were doing this for Jesus, and we were doing this for these families, and it felt like we were doing everything with a purpose.”
The relief team is back home, but the North Carolina church is still helping out, sponsoring an ongoing effort to provide fast-food gift cards for families still living in hotels and tents.
Home Free, meanwhile, set up a YouCaring fund to collect donations for hurricane relief — managing it themselves to make sure 100 percent of the money goes to the churches and communities where it’s needed. At press time, the site had raised $88,300 of its $100,000 goal.
Home Free also recorded a cover of the Little Texas hit “God Blessed Texas” to raise money for relief. The video features church members, wearing T-shirts for Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort and delivering supplies to those in need.
Dena Foust said she has seen a difference in her community — something beyond the wreckage.
“Sometimes it takes something like this to bring people together,” she said. “Now, people seem more appreciative of what they have; they don’t take things for granted and they’re coming together to help each other.
“God’s taken care of us, that’s for sure.”
Rupees for relief: Church members in India collect funds for Texas hurricane victims. See “In the Word,” Page 28.
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