It’s been one month since 21 strangers from Crossroads Church left Pittsburgh to help with the relief and recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Three groups of flyers, a pair of 3-day drivers, and a 2-day caravan of seven guys embarked for Dickinson, Texas, without much knowledge about what we would be doing. We knew we were helping people, but that’s about it.

We had a great time getting to know each other during those 20 or so hours of driving. I only knew 3 other people on the trip, and had met 3 others before the planning stages, so we had plenty to talk about on the journey south. We made sure to have some fun along the way as well with a stop at B.B. Kings in Memphis for some live music and dinner.

When we arrived in Dickinson, there was not much indication that there was even a disaster in the area. Everything looked normal on the surface. The initial shock came when we entered the church where we would be staying for the week. Carpet was all torn out, and there was nothing more than a coffee machine, juice machine, table and a sink in the kitchen. A few of the doors were missing, and the remaining doors had the bottom 18 inches cut off. Every wall in the building was missing the bottom 3 feet of drywall.

Something to keep in mind is that this was a large church we were staying in. They have a lot of people who would normally step in to fix things up, but they all had their own homes to take care of. The pastor there said that their “flywheel” of ministry basically stopped when the flooding happened. It was just beginning to start again while we were there. Groups were starting to meet again for the first time since the hurricane. Members of the church served us dinner every day. The little things like that gave them a sense that things were starting to return to normal.

The first morning, we divided up into a few teams to work at 3 different houses and the church, as well as another church on the other side of town. I was assigned to the home of an 82-year-old widow who teaches english as a second language to immigrants. The bottom 4 feet of walls in her entire house were torn out down to the studs. I may not have hung more than a couple of sheets of drywall in my life, but that changed over the next few days. nearly 100 sheets of drywall went up in that house, along with tape and mud before we wrapped up to head home.

Dickinson, Texas after Hurricane Harvey

Drywall work in Dickinson, Texas

It wasn’t just the work that was important. The conversations and relationships that we built were even better. I met an older man named Cooper who lived across the street from our homeowner. If you know much about baseball history, you might recognize his brother’s name, Cecil Cooper. Seeing us helping out his neighbor brought more hope into his own life. I met the pastor of the black church on the other side of town. His deep care for his church members showed through everything that he said and did. He’s actually the pastor of the homeowner that my team was helping. His reaction to the progress was priceless.

There are so many stories and encounters from the trip, but I’d like to share one video with you. While it didn’t seem like we did a lot when you look at the vast reach of the disaster, to be able to touch even a few lives like this shows that it really is worth it all.