A few days into watching the Harvey flood devastate Houston, a thought popped into my head to call Pastor Mickey and see if he wanted to spontaneously jump in the truck and head East. Knowing he’s a busy man, and deep down understanding this thought was impulsive, I didn’t make the call. One hour later an e-mail from Pastor Mickey was in my inbox asking if any Rock Church Chaplains wanted to deploy to Houston to get plugged in with a group call Crisis Response International (CRI). Immediately after clicking the link and a quick enrollment process, there was one last step: checking with the boss.
I jumped on the phone and talked with my wife Sandy, asking her if she could get by without me for the next two weeks, and without a pause, she said, “go.” And her second breath spoke, “and I’m coming too.” We went into action getting our children (teenagers) prepared for our departure with arranging schedules, food in the house, etc. Sandy had to make arrangements with her work at Sharp Memorial to take time off and it turned out that the hospital would send her on full pay for this event.
After sending an e-mail to Mickey informing him I’m committed to going out, we packed the basics and got on the road. We stopped by my local hardware store in Jamul, in which I have a great relationship with, and they sold me buckets, bleach, brooms, etc…at store cost. From door to door, we drove straight through and arrived to base camp located in Tomball, TX, which was just north of the city outside the flood zone. CRI’s base camp was being hosted by Joan Hunter Ministries, in a facility that is about the same size of the Rock Church’s East County Campus situated on few acres of beautiful green grass.
We checked in with the Deployment Director, Mike Wyatt. We were the first from the Rock to show, and he was expecting us. After a quick interview and dropping our gear, I thought we would sit down, maybe close our eyes after being awake for 30 plus hours. Nope – Mike was happy to see my truck, loaded us up with supplies and we were dispatched to the team on site of the “purple house.”
Sandy and I navigated slightly deep into the flooded areas that had just receded in the last day, and we were driving through communities that had piles of house effects on the street, just like we saw on the news the day before. What the news couldn’t show was the smell. We rolled up on the team at the purple house just after their lunch break. People welcomed us with hugs and handshakes and as I turned around the truck was being unloaded quickly. I could see all the same colored shirts, working like ants, and it became obvious they were unloading personal effects, and gutting the drywall, floors, kitchen cabinetry … everything that became wet. Nasty work. Well – I’m a Chaplain here to share God’s love, God’s word, and I didn’t sign up for this. Chaplaincy is clean work, right?
Sandy grabbed her gloves and ran into the house like a fireman entering a burning building. I looked around, and soaked up the devastation and wondered where is the landfill that was going to take all of this stuff. And then I repeated this word in my head: STUFF. STUFF. It’s just stuff. And I heard Him. “Why are you here? I brought you here. It’s not about their stuff.” I started to connect the dots. “It’s about Me. I brought you here to share Me”. The dot of Chaplaincy, the dot of CERT, Disaster Preparedness, the dot of early retirement with no leash and finally the thought of heading to Houston confirmed by the e-mail from Mickey. He ordained this trip, and I actually listened.
So I put on my gloves, walked into the house and walked right back out. The smell of mold was overwhelming. I donned a dusk mask and got back in. I met the homeowner’s son, Roger, and quickly got the down low. It was the house he grew up in, and Yvonne (Mom) had been collecting “stuff” over the years. Lots of stuff. In fact, she was a hoarder. So, while the team unloaded everything, Yvonne sat under an umbrella with three ladies from CRI who did their best to distract her while her entire life of stuff was wheel barreled out to the street. Yvonne was an elderly African American gal whom I got to chat with while I was on a break from the heat. During the process of friendly chit-chat and just listening, I discovered she worked for AT&T many years ago, and her job brought her to Houston. Being very familiar with that industry, I was able to take an interest in her career, which she loved to talk about. Once she put her hand on my arm and pulled me in close to share secrets, we achieved our connection and a subtle bond. Yvonne’s favorite color is purple. The drywall was purple, cabinetry was purple, the tile was purple, and most of the knick-knacks were purpose too. Roger had us put undamaged items under a tree which would later be sent off for donations. The girls who watched over her tried their best to keep her from digging through, but her attachment to these things was overwhelming, even for the ladies watching over her. I was caught off guard as I organized the donation pile into containers as she yelled out, “Roger, Roger, there’s some white man going through my things!” I froze like a deer looking guilty, she smiled and winked at me. It was her way of accepting me.
The purple house took two days. The unloading, plus the stripping of the interior walls, bathrooms and a kitchen was a challenge since it was my first. The girls were ministering to Yvonne, and Roger too. By the time we were completing, Yvonne had rededicated her life to Christ and confessed that the things on the lawn were filling a void, and ask our group to pray over her to release her from this stronghold. This is where I saw God’s hand in a new light. This wasn’t a short 30-second prayer; this prayer was almost 2 hours. Each team member spoke over Yvonne. Some prophesied and explained what evil spirits were in the house, and the house was exterminated through prayer. My eyes were opened to whole new ballgame of prayer. Time to head back to camp.
Upon coming in, hustling activity at base camp had been transpiring – receiving and arranging new donations for the community and arrival of fresh volunteers. This is where I met Jason Allemand. He would soon relieve Mike who is now leaving Texas and forming a new team that was being sent to Southern Florida. Jason and I connected right away. He was a Community Chaplain and we had a mutual friend in Mickey Stonier.
As I took a break in the make shift dining area inside the sanctuary, I was sorting through my photos that I intended to send back to Mickey. I snapped a photo of the business sign of the ministry hosting us. As I looked closer to the marquee, I noticed it read of an upcoming healing school that would take place at the end of the month.
Joan had stepped out of her office areas. She has about 15 people on staff running her ministry, and she invited CRI to infiltrate her facility. She made her way over to the temporary dining room where I was resting, and she was introducing herself and saying hi to the small crowd. When she got to me, I decided to take an interest in her upcoming class since I find spiritual healings from God amazing. I asked if the healing class would be taught by her and the sudden change in facial expression revealed to me that I might as well had asked Bill Gates if he was involved in software. I tapped danced my way through the conversation and explained how I desired to attend, but couldn’t since I needed to be back in San Diego. She motioned to a young man by the name of Miguel. Joan shared with me her team is on the road this weekend, but upon return, Miguel will be available to me for a healing crash course.
The following day we headed over to a different flood area. We met with a family that had a two-story home flood all the way up to the 1st-floor ceiling. Picture your home filled up with rainwater, some river water, and sewage – keep it contained inside for six days – then pull the plug. Refrigerators were floating as the water receded. Bobbie and Carmen had just finished a remodel due to a flood that had happened just a year earlier when the river nearby had overflowed. The good news was that they had insurance. The hard spot was that they were questioning their faith. Why them? Why again? It was running over in my head how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on the just and the unjust. True revelation was to come to Robbie and Carmen that having God on your side allows the trial to flow by with a sense of peace and strength.
During the recovery of this particular house, it was late into the first day that we discovered a few ladies working alongside us. We thought they were friends of the family, but they were complete strangers. As amazing as that is, the enemy was making an attempt to lay a root of anger and frustration into my spirit. As I wheeled barrels of debris out of the house, my view could see how most of the team was ministering and only a couple of us where working. As a Navy Chief, my goal was stay on mission. Our team organizer back at base wants us to finish soonest which expedites our getting to the next family. I grabbed a young team mate. Craig is about 30 years old, married with four kids from Indiana. I confided in him my frustration. I explain how I feel like Martha, stuck in the kitchen while everyone else enjoys being with Christ. I’m now sympathizing with Martha and seeing how she gets a bad rap. Somebody has to do the work – or nothing gets done. Craig encouraged me and rationalized that he and I will work as the others do God’s work. We drank a cold water during the talk, and rolled right back into the house and finished out the day. I’m grateful for Craig and his maturity.
Sunday night we had church service around 8:00PM. I made preparations to talk about verses explaining the “going out and coming in” related to warfare from David’s perspective in the Psalms. But a motion came over me to do something less talkative, and to show my own humility amongst my brothers and sisters. I grabbed a basin from the kitchen and a clean white rag. I asked Craig to come down from the A/V booth and help me out. I sat him down in a chair facing the stage, facing me, and proceeded to pull off his socks and wash his feet. As I washed, I explained how Jesus came to serve and not be served. I explained how Peter tried to pull away, but Christ wouldn’t have it. If we couldn’t do this for each other when He left us, then what? I expressed my gratitude for Craig as teammate and as a friend and reminded him how important he was to me in the field. I closed by speaking truth into his life as a husband and as a father. I tried to hold it together, but failed and my tears started. I had no focus on those watching, but Sandy said there wasn’t a dry eye.
Miguel returned from travel, and I was excited! He spent one-on-one time with me for several days. He shares with me God’s love for healing in a way, which explained how God gets so excited to enter into these joint ventures. God loves to collaborate, and show His wonders. He gives me a handbook for me to keep and then it happened. Miguel asks me where it hurts. I hurt everywhere, but I picked my shoulders. He feels I have a spirit of resentment of un-dealt with forgiveness, and has me repent in front of him. Miguel puts his hands on my neck, and commands my spine to realign, ligaments return to normal, muscles return to normal. His hands move to my shoulders and back and forth he commands my spine to decompress and I feel my head raising inches. My eyes are wide open as he demanded, and has me repeat over and over “Thank You Jesus”, “Thank You Jesus” and it was accomplished. God healed my shoulders.
I am so grateful God brought me to this place. This city, these people, this experience has truly been a game changer in my personal walk with Christ. I’m sure I knew Him before, but now I hear Him, and now I know how to walk with Him. I’m physically exhausted, but spiritually hungry and yearning to stay. During these two weeks in Houston, I have battled spiritual warfare alongside Christians that justly deserve the depiction of Christ Like. These individuals, collectively and separately, encouraged me to the next level in my own walk; To eat, sleep, work, and worship alongside prophets, healers, and prayer warriors.
In Psalm 121:8, David talks about the Lord preserving us going out and coming in. I believe this talks of war, and God’s hand over us heading into battle, and refreshing us upon our return. These souls I come to meet and serve along side were Kingdom Warriors on fire for God. Nothing was executed or planned without prayer and seeking God’s intervention on all things. Worship and praise were never ceasing. I truly was part of a cadre that was fighting on the Lord’s behalf.
On my last day I decided to work half the day on the Mobile Kitchen Unit before pulling out of town. I was packed and drove my truck behind the kitchen team, and set up where we were the day before. It was an easy menu – burgers, potato salad and beans. We served over 200 people in the community this day. Since I was training the team to be able to work without me I had them do all of the work. I stayed outside on the food line, and worked the window. Trying not to be the chief and barking orders, I laid back and enjoyed the locals, talking and speaking uplifting words reminding them again how God has not forgotten about them. It took two hours to feed everyone. We cleaned up and I reluctantly declared it was time for me to get on the road. My kitchen crew and Jason where there to see me off. Hugs went all the way around. It was a short walk to my truck yet the longest. As I pulled up to the intersection to make my turn, my brothers and sisters ran up to my truck waving and running alongside, blowing kisses. Pulling away I watched them fade in my rear view mirror and I haven’t stopped crying since.