Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A moving portrait of faith at work in rural Texas after Hurricane Harvey

Kevin Sack of The New York Times provides a moving portrait of the role of faith in helping a group of people cope with the damage done to their lives by Hurricane Harvey. It's notable as a non-judgmental effort to help urban readers understand the lives and worries of rural residents in a time when the media has been increasingly criticized for ignoring rural concerns.
Volunteer Michael Beard (R) helped clear Angie Klimple's home.
(New York Times photo by Christopher Lee)
The story zeroes in on Wharton County, Texas, which was ravaged by floods four days after Harvey hit the Texas coast. Angie Kimple, 80, was able to ride out the floods at a friend's house, but most of her belongings were not salvageable. But even in this tragedy, friends, family, and even strangers came together to help her clear out her home. And in their help for their neighbor, in the Biblical sense, we see how faith carried the community through.

Wharton County, Texas
(Wikipedia map)
"Across the flood zone, the water's victims have endured the first two weeks of dislocation with the help of Samaritans of all cloths -- family members, friends, co-workers, volunteers from near and far, and an array of faith-based groups," Sack reports. "Some did not know one another, or for that matter, the Klimples. It mattered little. Each felt called by faith to lend their hands -- and legs and backs, which would soon ache with soreness -- to an elderly woman in distress."

"Faith-based" doesn't necessarily mean evangelical. One of the volunteers who came to help was Michael Vowell, the senior rabbi of a Messianic synagogue in Houston. All the volunteers prayed for Klimple and thanked God for the blessing of being alive, of being able to help each other. It was tempting to wonder why such devastation happened, but they were too busy to dwell on it, and Vowell said it wasn't so important. "My theology is that if I can see God moving through people, neighbors helping neighbors, I can shelve the bigger question of why is this happening," he said. "That there are still people caring for each other is evidence enough that God is in this world."

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