On Thursday Aug. 24, 2017, the Ascending Leaders board concluded our annual meeting with a lunch-and-learn event at Houston Baptist University, listening to 30 area discipleship practitioners. The Houston-area attendees were checking the weather updates on their phones; the out-of-town board members wondered if their flights would be affected by Harvey’s imminent landfall. Board member Dr. Robert Sloan, President of HBU, checked in on the college’s emergency planning. Everyone agreed that the meeting was over just in time. On the drive home, Mike waited in a gas line to get enough gas to last a week, not realizing floods would keep his car in the garage for the next seven days.
No one expected the hurricane would stall west of Houston as a record-breaking tropical storm, sitting there for days picking up water from the Gulf of Mexico and dropping it over the area surrounding the United States’ fourth largest city. By Thursday morning, a week later, the rain gauge total at Mike’s home measured 44+ inches of rain. Harvey had officially broken the continental U.S. record for rainfall from one storm.
Like everyone else in the region, Ascending Leaders’ plans for the fall drastically shifted. Three staff members evacuated, family and friends endured flooding of their homes, and it was a month before the whole team was back together at our offices in Sugar Land. One church in a coaching partnership had over 200 members flooded. And yet, the storm provided opportunities for disciples to love their neighbors more selflessly, and to surrender to God during scary unknowns. In the aftermath of a community crisis, the real impact of doing discipleship well becomes clear. It shows up in the people sacrificing their best interests for the sake of the displaced. It’s seen in churches with open doors and lines of volunteers. When you get discipleship right in your church, you have an abundant outpouring of faithful service when crisis hits.
Here are some personal accounts of “God things” that happened during Harvey:
- “I’ll never forget Gina stepping in to help a neighbor while the rest of the neighborhood was standing around gawking. It gave us the opportunity to minister to this Mandarin-speaking family. An unexpected benefit was the great dumplings they brought over the next day!”
– Mike Johnson, AL Founder/President
- “The reporter from Detroit spoke of his surprise over people coming together and sacrificing to help each other in the middle of this devastation. I was impressed that he said he had never seen this before.”
– Teri Watson, Accounts Assistant
- “A neighboring church invited our Chinese church members to a training session on how to help following a flood—mold remediation, and things like that. Despite little notice and difficult roads, a hundred people from our church showed up for that. That was a gift from God, because it helped equip us.”
– Ellie Tow, Executive Assistant
- “After Harvey hit, our church members called for help first to others in their community groups. And I witnessed that with my own community group, with everyone texting and calling each other with offers of shelter or help as the flooding got worse. It was beautiful to see everyone living out our goal of doing life together as a church.”
– Megan LaFollett, Communications/Resourcing Lead
Mike and other staff members received calls, e-mails and texts from people out of town who wanted to help and needed advice on where to give aid that would effectively help people. Thanks to Ascending Leaders’ national connections, we were able to link people across the country who wanted to send resources to the front lines in the very early hours and days of recovery.