That feeling when you have nothing. No toys for your children, just the shoes on your feet and maybe a couple of photos in the car or a computer. No pans to cook dinner in and no stove on which to prepare it. No sense of home or permanence. Thinking of getting through the day is awful, and the word “recovery” seems so hard and distant. And I can imagine what questions are swirling through the minds of those wonderful survivors in Houston with Hurricane Harvey. But I don’t want to leave you feeling alone. Or if you want to help, I’d love to point you toward agencies or groups that are very helpful in these situations.
If you’re a survivor…
Right now you’re worried about getting to STABLE. Knowing where you’ll be sleeping, or perhaps even still helping others evacuate in your area. The threat is still very real and fresh. The air smells different. You may be living on rations or in a shelter or friend’s home. Your skin may smell different for what you’ve had to swim through or wade through trying to save something…or someone. And your soul is weary. Perhaps even numb.
In those wee hours of the morning when terrors seem more real than hope ever does, I want to offer you resources and practical ideas to connect within your community.
- Look for a church in your area which is organizing resources, gift cards, and actively seeking to help. Regardless of your background, this is a safe starting point and a place of local contact for national agencies that will be on hand trying to help.
- The Red Cross will be present and welcome their supplies and helpful insights. I’ll never forget the volunteers who showed up with shovels and helped with water bottles while we dug through our remains.
- Register your loss with insurance companies. Ask a friend who’s not involved in lots of loss to help you understand their procedures so you don’t miss key deadlines right now.
- Understand that you are in shock and will need time to sort things through. Give yourself grace to be in survival mode, making it one day at a time.
- Appoint a friend out of the area to handle communication to family and friends who are checking on you. They can set up a Caring Bridge or other email system with updates so you only have to tell your story once. This is very important if communications and power are still down in your area. Ask them to form a prayer team for your situation too, and you only have to give one text to update the many who care about your situation.
- Begin taking some time to yourself to pray and sort through your feelings of loss. If you’re in a friend’s home, go to a room where you’re alone and just rest in it not being okay but knowing you are loved and this disaster does NOT define you and your life. It will overtake you for a season, but is not who you are.
The single hardest thing to accept can be that YOU need help, and to let others in your circle of need. It is often a gift to them to bless you too.
For months, my children wore donated clothing and played with donated toys. Even their costumes were provided by loving friends. Our groceries came from donated gift cards, the kindness of many strangers I’ll never get to thank. And I’ve never forgotten their kindness, or the smiles it brought to my boys, and their gifts push me to this day to reach out and help others who are hurting, to help them find resources or inspiring stories to make it through another day, week, or month. Speaking of which, here’s some great resources to help right now in Houston.
If you want to give or need help:
United Policyholders – (Link HERE) is a nonprofit agency that will likely be holding area-wide meetings there soon after the disaster, to help you through the insurance issues and wading through putting a to-do list together with rebuilding your life.
Local churches – Here are two great churches that are involved in rescue and cleanup efforts, click on their names to go to their websites.
Woodridge Baptist Church in Kingwood Drive http://woodridge.org/
Champion Forest Baptist Church (several locations) http://www.championforest.org/
(Feel free to add your local churches in the comments below too)
Follow this Twitter feed for ongoing resources, from Jamie Aten who runs disaster ministry conferences at https://twitter.com/drjamieaten
Our church hosted meetings for a year with United Policyholders present to help with claims and also other experts there to answer questions, and help build community and even give relationship advice from other victims who’d been there before. Their advice stuck with my heart and prompted me to create The Bridge (Link HERE), Recovery Guide with key steps to making it through these first weeks and months, and a video series with Seven Steps To Rebuild Your Life (Link HERE). These make great presents for those who are ready to engage the problem of sorting things now, and then trying to grapple with how to rebuild their lives.
Articles with local resources –
Tips on dealing with your insurance company: http://www.khou.com/weather/harvey/11-tips-on-dealing-with-your-insurance-company/469414220
How to get help and offer help to local resources: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/28/hurricane-harvey-relief-efforts-how-help/?utm_campaign=trib-social-buttons&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social
Bookmark this and return here soon, I’m working on a book with tips to help in the weeks and months following a disaster, and will post links to interviews like today’s Facebook Live where I’m interviewed by Rev Misty Tyme about healing from loss and how to help victims in crises (link HERE). Please join us and ask questions about how we held onto hope beyond our circumstances.
Our wildfire story and tributes to people who helped can be found at MakeUsSmile.com (Link HERE).