Bearcats in Cowboy Hats

Ever since moving to Cincinnati three years ago my spring breaks have been consumed by one thing or another. My sophomore year I went to Panama City Beach with Cru (the trip that lit the fire in me for evangelism) and junior year I stayed in Cincinnati and volunteered with a local church’s week-long youth group event. This year, I, well God, wanted to change things up a bit and called me to Orange, Texas for a disaster relief trip. The damage from Hurricane Harvey is still widespread, especially for the people that don’t have the finances to pay for a construction crew to repair half their house. Alongside the group of twenty from H2O Cincinnati, a group of students from Georgia also met us at the rustic Navy base where we all stayed.

One of the homes we worked on while in Texas. Due to a leak in the waterline, the roof collapsed the second day we were there.

There are some things that cannot be unseen. That, when you finally see them, they’re ingrained so deeply into your memory that nothing will ever take those images away. There are two such places for me. The first of which being the orphanages I visited while while in Africa last summer. Witnessing twenty orphans sleep four to a bed, scrape by for food, and wear the same dirt-covered clothes day-in and day-out because they had no others sticks with you. The same is true about seeing homes where two feet of water had left its mark–damage that could still be seen seven months after Hurricane Harvey hit. The floorboards in the homes we repaired were so weak we risked falling through, all the drywall on the bottom half of the house had to be ripped out, 2x4s had to be replaced from water damage or, in some cases, termites. And that list isn’t including nearly every possession these people owned. From the outside, a lot of the houses appeared to be undamaged, as if they were putting on a facade. Inside, though, was nothing but the remnants of people’s former lives.

The incredible thing about both Africa and Texas, however, was how blown away I was by the people. At the orphanages in Africa I have never seen anyone–let alone children–express so much joy. Their peace and joy came from nothing but God; and the people whom I met in Texas were no different. The home owners that I interacted with were contempt and still giving praise to God despite their situation. I went in there with the mindset of speaking to them and sharing with them the love of Christ, yet they did that with me instead.

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