September 26, 2005

From G. Todd Williams, pastor of New Covenant Christian Church in Houston, Texas.

After a long day, my family arrived safely back in Houston. We evacuated last Thursday morning for San Antonio. Today we were allowed back in our neighborhood as part of a “staggered” return to Houston plan.

It was a strange feeling boarding up my home and packing my car with what I felt I would need in the event that I were to loose my home. Things certainly take on a different value when it comes to the idea that you may never see it again.

I don’t think that I have ever felt such anxiety before in my life. Even while driving away, I took one look back and thought, “Okay God, it’s yours.”

To help matters, my father drove straight from Indiana overnight on Wednesday, as the storage place where he keeps his RV called and said that if he didn’t come and get it, they couldn’t guarantee that it would be safe. This actually worked well for all of us, as there were no rooms available south of Waco, Texas.

Dad arrived, slept for an hour while we finished boarding up the house and loading the car, and then we hit the road.

Wednesday night had been filled with phone calls, and trying to make sure that our members were going to be safe. A late night trip into the inner city had me picking up Tony Head, one of our kids from the University of Houston, at the Greyhound bus stop. He was trying to get out of town, but Greyhound has stopped selling tickets, and there were close to 500 people on the street trying to find a way out of the city. Armed police officers prevented people who did not already have reservations from entering the building.

I wasn’t about to leave Tony on the street, especially with so many angry and frightened people, so I told him that he was going with me to San Antonio. For me, this was the most terrifying experience I have ever had on the streets of Houston. Being among these people, many of them yelling and pushing, made me realize just how desperate people can be.

On Thursday, as our little caravan struck out, we soon realized that there was no fuel to be found, and had we not packed water and some snack items, we wouldn’t have had food either. Luckily, we had filled our gas tanks, and had additional gas tanks on board.

Late that night, we managed to make our way to San Antonio. We went to a restaurant, and we were surrounded by evacuees from Houston. Many shared stories of how it took them close to twenty hours to escape the city.

I don’t think that I have ever watched so much news coverage before in my life. We gathered and prayed for our friends and families, our fellow Disciples’ who were about to face the storm, and for the strength to return and be ready to face whatever we would find.

Today we returned. Most everyone in our congregation has checked in, and everyone seems to be doing well When I pulled into our drive, I breathed a sigh of relief. The front of the house looked fine. The only damage we sustained was about half of our back-yard fence is now in the neighbor’s yard, and we lost shingles off the roof. Praise God … no water leaked in.

On a personal note, today is my 42nd birthday. I am surrounded by my family, I have (most of) a roof over my head, and my health seems to be in check. My friend Alicia Barnett in Port Arthur shared with me this afternoon, “I still have a home! I know that there is a lot ahead of us, but God has a silver lining just waiting to make itself known.”

Remaining in God’s grip!

Rev. G. Todd Williams