Students and Faculty Help Harvey Survivors Rebuild during Fall Break
WACO, Texas (Oct. 19, 2017) — Although most of the world only pays attention to natural disasters when they are in the headlines, the residents who live in the impacted areas are left to pick up the pieces and begin the long, emotional process of rebuilding their homes and their lives.
Instead of going home or traveling during Fall Break, a group of Baylor University students used this time of rest to serve the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. Fifty-five students and three faculty and staff members joined Baylor Missions on a mission trip to provide a helping hand to families in Houston as they work to restore their lives.
Baylor Missions partnered with various organizations, including Heritage Park Baptist Church, Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corp., Preemptive Love Coalition, Houston resident Penelope Moore, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and North American Mission Board to begin the process of rebuilding homes. At night, the teams worshiped and rested at South Main Baptist Church in midtown Houston before heading out the next day to serve the community.
“I was inspired to go with students to Houston as soon as I saw emails that Baylor Missions was sending people. Baylor in general, but especially Baylor Spiritual Life, had been so diligent about reminding me of my connection to Houston,” said Elijah Tanner, resident chaplain for Gordon Teal Residential College. “Even though no one I know was affected directly, Dr. (Burt) Burleson reminded everyone that our spirits are still greatly impacted by the suffering of others. As much as I recognize the importance of prayer and financial aid, the fact that this tragedy was so close to home made me feel like it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t go.”
Baylor students worked from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13-15, putting up drywall in homes that had been fully torn out, removing water-damaged debris from homes and applying waterproofing materials before walls were rebuilt.
Louisiana senior Julia Stricklin was placed at a site in the Addicks Reservoir, where residents’ houses took on about four feet of water. Tasked with measuring, cutting and stapling Tyvek paper, Stricklin discovered that the ability to learn is a powerful tool in relief efforts.
“All students are professional learners, and I think that was our greatest skill going into this project. None of us had any previous experience with home reconstruction, but we listened and learned how to do it, and ended up doing a pretty bang-up job,” Stricklin said. “I think that it will be important to keep that with me as I grow, and I know that as long as I have the desire to help, I also have the ability to learn how to help.”
She also witnessed how her seemingly small contribution was an important addition to the overall relief effort.
“Our work was not particularly significant or profound. We did not completely rebuild a house back into move-in ready condition, but we did our part, and what was needed to the best of our ability,” Stricklin said. “Like many great works, there was no ‘instant gratification’ from this trip, but rather we contributed to a greater cause. I think this resembles our everyday lives in the Kingdom. Not every day may be significant and life-changing, but you can do something worthwhile that will contribute to a great work.”
Baylor Missions seeks to create tangible opportunities for students to understand how they can use the knowledge and skills they gain at Baylor to love people around the world and in the Waco community.
Jill Hatcher, project coordinator for Baylor Missions, said she is anticipating students will serve others through five or more Harvey-related trips and 50 domestic and international trips during the rest of the school year.
“With a catastrophic event of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey, it isn’t a quick recovery. It is a slow and ongoing process that could take years,” Hatcher said. “All of Baylor Missions is centered on long-term commitment. We return to the same areas because in all mission efforts, we come up with a project that we can support long term. We come with long-term commitment because we want to represent the presence of Christ.”
Baylor Missions also organizes discipline-specific mission trips, so they can stay true to their desire to help Baylor students combine their academic focus and their faith. In future hurricane-relief missions, the School of Education plans to take a trip to support students and teachers who are behind on the school year due to the impact of the hurricane. Leadership students will help in schools to encourage leaders to arise and support their communities in new ways. The athletics department is even considering a mission trip to teach sports but also get children caught up on fun they may have lost while withstanding the hurricane.
Hatcher was humbled by the collective response among the Baylor Spiritual Life staff and the student body to meet an ongoing need only a few hours away from Waco.
“It is an interesting thing when Christ calls us to do something and we sacrifice to do what He has called us to do,” Hatcher said. “The students sacrificed free time, study time and midterms, which were before the mission trip, and God was faithful. They were able to accomplish great things, and they got to see God work.”
Overall, students learned a lot about servitude and true compassion from their experiences during the trip.
“It was one enormous opportunity which I saw that could measure my spiritual growth as a follower of Christ,” said California senior Anthony Gasso Jr. “As a believer, I think it should be my natural response to love people. Yet, I often find myself only loving people with my words and not enough with my God-given abilities. We Baylor students will soon become professionals and great leaders in our respected fields, but before we graduate, it is important that we learn how to become great servants first.”
by Joy Moton, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.