Hurricane Harvey Is Like Going on a Mission Trip

Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s El Salvador 2017 Mission Trip Journal: September 3, 2017

hurricane harvey 1I feel as if I just returned from a mission trip by surviving Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.  Many of our team and even our dear local friends have lived through what might be considered their most devastating emotional and physical experience. Although Darin and I were spared the physical destruction from flood waters, Harvey did rattle my nerves and produce a continuous supply of cortisol running through my veins, as the torrential rains caused flood waters to creep up the street and transform the empty ditch behind our home into a river.  Setting the alarm to check water levels every 2 hours in the night resulted in a mixed blessing: increased exhaustion meeting relief that our carpet was still dry.  We hauled everything we could lift to the second floor and waited for the flood waters to take most of the furniture that made our lives comfortable.

If truth be told, I suffered some anxiety, as I relived memories from my childhood during Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  At 10 years old, my 7-year old brother and I were awakened in the night by our mother, so we could wade into rising sewage waters to haul upstairs anything we could salvage.  Although more than 45 years ago, I can vividly remember the pressure to save what little our family had.  No doubt, this tragic experience re-shaped my worldview—how I believe the world works.  My response was not to become emotionally invested in things, because they can easily be taken away through no fault of my own.  Although I have worked hard, made good money, and enjoyed nice things, I have never become emotionally attached or strived to have the biggest, brightest, or best.

Hurricane Harvey has put every Houstonian on a mission trip as if they have stepped into a third world or developing country.  In the past, those who served on their first short-term mission trip came away with more questions than answers and a desire to live differently upon their return home.  Their personal paradigms had been shifted. Harvey created a mission trip for Houstonians in their own backyards and paradigms were shifted without having left the city.

My rule of thumb, based on taking numerous teams on mission, is that people have ~ 6 weeks to act on their new worldview or paradigm; otherwise, they will acclimate to their pre-mission lifestyles. Life goes on as it was!  So, the question for Houstonians impacted by Hurricane Harvey is “What will you do differently now with your new-found worldview?”  For me, I am actively purging more material possessions and encouraging Darin to do so as well.

As the flooding threat subsided and we felt comfortable bringing our “stuff” to the ground floor, I took the opportunity to go through closets, drawers, and every room to give-away or throw-away things I had accumulated.  As an avid reader, my most difficult assignment was giving away books.  I love the sight of words and the feel of paper on my fingertips but realized that our future lives in a 1200 sq. ft. home and RV will not hold many books.  Better to start the process now in shedding that weight.  I gave away ~ 30% of my books and will continue the book-shedding process for months to come.  What change might you make to align with a new worldview?

I consider myself a positive person and always look for the blessing in adversity. My prayer is that others embrace or continue to act on two concepts after the waters recede and a new normalcy returns.  The first concept is that relationships and community are more important than stuff lost.  By the stories shared among friends and through media, I think most people are living this out in the midst of this tragedy. I hope that the outpouring of love as demonstrated by personal sacrifice and service is a sustainable paradigm-shift that continues. My second hope is that everyone appreciates the necessity and gift of clean water.  Many Houstonians were stranded by Harvey, and probably for the first time in their lives, they did not have access to safe drinking water.  I pray this tragedy becomes a wake-up call to the struggle of clean drinking water for a significant portion of the global population.

When Darin and I announce we are going on another mission trip to Central America to drill a well, I hope we hear, “Go, God speed,” and not, “Why do you serve outside of this country when there are so many people who are in need here?”  I agree, there are needy in every country; however, when Texans finally clean up from Harvey, even our country’s homeless can go into a public restroom and drink clean water from the sink faucet.  The same cannot be said in other parts of the world. During what appears to be these unfavorable times, I take to heart: “To every thing there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 KJV). May we all continue to be there for each other in our time of need.

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