The Hurricane Season of 2017 brought to the areas of Texas,
Florida, the Carribean Islands and Puerto Rico, historic devastation.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all who survived and are working to
rebuild their lives and communities.
On September 5, 2017, while home schooling my three children, Aven 14, MaCaedyn 12, and Samuel Braeden 10, I turned on the news to have them watch the historic happenings with Hurricane Harvey and the devastating destruction it was causing in the southern part of Texas.
“There has never been anything like this before,” I said, “This is even worse than what happened after Hurricane Katrina.”
Even though Aven was only two, MaCaedyn was two months and Samuel wasn’t even born when Hurricane Katrina struck, my children all knew the significance of that storm. It was after that storm that I started our family’s nonprofit organization The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. and over the years, I had taught them well about the crippling destruction Katrina left behind. So now, for me to say that Hurricane Harvey was even worse was shocking to them.
As they all sat watching the stories of people being rescued from their flooded homes, their hearts were deeply impacted.
“Mama, why aren’t we going down there to help those children?” they asked.
My pathetic reply, which was heavily lacking faith was, “Because we don’t have a trailer or truck to take everything we would need to. We also don’t have the traveling funds right now.”
They looked at me with confident eyes, but expressions that seemed to show how silly my answer was. “Then we’ll pray for them,” they said.
In that moment I realized that my reply had not taught them confident, strong faith. My eyes were fixed upon my lacking circumstances instead of keeping my focus upon the One who supplies ALL of my needs; Jehovah Jireh.
My children sat on the living room rug, grabbed hands and began to pray a very simple but powerful prayer of faith. “Jesus, we want to go to Texas to take things to children who have lost everything they had. If You want us to go do this, we need You to get us a trailer to pack, a truck to pull it and the money to get it all there. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
By the end of that night, they had their truck and twenty foot trailer, along with donations for gas, lodging and meals for the trip. From that moment on, our time was spent in one fast paced, non-stopping effort to gather as many items as possible for the children and babies of Texas… and my three children loved every minute of it.
In addition to promoting the project, collecting donations, shopping for items or picking them up, I had to find the place for us to go. I knew it couldn’t be just any place, it had to be the exact spot where God wanted us to be.
My first call to Houston City Hall directed me to a shelter that was being set up in San Antonio, TX. The reason I was being sent there was because, at that time, the roads in Houston were undrivable. I spoke with a lovely lady in San Antonio named Melody who worked with the San Antonio County Medical Society. She was thrilled to find out what we wanted to do and was going to help us arrange it to come to their shelter on the 14th of Sept. We had hoped to be able to play with the children and my kids were going to dress up in superhero and Star Wars costumes and teach them gymnastics and tae kwon do.
A few days later I received a call from Melody telling me that the people who were supposed to be transported to their shelter couldn’t make it due to bad road conditions. She suggested that I try to find another shelter to take our donations to.
My first call was back to the Houston City Hall. I explained the situation with San Antonio and this lady put me in touch with a church in Houston that was working round the clock to help people in need. It was called the Memorial Church of Christ. I spoke with a wonderful woman named Lavee Sherwin who was so happy to hear of what we wanted to do. She told me she would try to help me find a place to go and that she would contact me again soon.
The next day, after spending time in prayer, I felt led to press on with my search. I knew that Lovee was working to help me, but I also knew that she was right in the midst of the heart of the destruction and already had so much to do on her plate. So I called the Austin County Medical Society. They told me that they had heard the people of La Grange, Texas had a terrible time with flooding due to the river overflowing in their community. It didn’t make the national news, but the town lost over 500 homes and 37 businesses.
I then called the people of La Grange and left many messages. I didn’t hear back from anyone until the next day. When I did, they were very grateful for our desire to come, but told us that they had been extremely blessed and that I should contact the town of Smithville.
I contacted Smithville and left messages. The next day, I learned that they too had been greatly blessed with supplies and they told me to contact a town called Refugio.
The process of calling repeated. I contacted Refugio and left messages, but heard nothing back that day.
I was getting nervous. I am not the type of person who likes to do a project without a plan. I like adventure and from time to time the element of surprise, but when I am on a mission, I like to know where that mission is.
My husband, Josh, who normally also likes to have a plan, was not concerned. “God will tell us where He wants us to go. He has proven that us going is His will. He will work it out.”
The next day was Tuesday, September 12th, the day we were supposed to leave. I once again called the people of Refugio, only to learn that they too had been blessed with supplies. They referred me to Rock Port, but when I tried to call Rock Port, I learned their phone lines were still down, at least for the numbers that I was given to call. I called back to Refugio and they directed me to contact a small town called Woodsboro that had 1,484 people in it and was twenty miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. I was told they had been hit hard and no one knew if they had received much help.
At this point I was exhausted. We were supposed to leave in less than two hours and I was still trying to find a place to go. I called the Woodsboro Town Hall and was told that there was a children’s community center that would be interested in what we had to bring. Before I called, I prayed, “God, I have no idea where you want us to go, but this is the last phone call I am going to make today. I want to do Your will and I want to follow Your path, so I need You to show it to me. I will make this call and if this isn’t the place, we will just be driving by faith to Texas.”
I called the community center which was named The Eagle’s Next and left a message. Then I finished up my packing and left the location of where we were to go at the feet of Jesus. While I was packing I started thinking about the situation. Yes, for me it was a constant effort, very time consuming and had become a bit frustrating in not finding a location to go. But then God showed me the bigger picture of what was really happening; an outpouring of ‘loving thy neighbor’ was taking place.
I had my eyes focused on my side of it, which was in trying to find a place to take our donations. But when I looked at it from the people of Texas’ point of view, I saw that they were just taking care of each other. When a community had what they needed, they were not selfishly taking more, they were making sure the other people of their great state were also taken care of; it was a beautiful chain reaction of love, care, kindness and giving.
My husband called that he was on his way to pick us up and hit the road. He hoped we would be leaving by 2:30pm. I looked at the clock. It was about 1:30pm.
The children and I were ready, so we started locking up the house and taking our bags outside to load when Josh got home.
At 1:50pm the phone rang.
On the other end was a young man named Drew Strong, who was taking all of the donations for the Eagle’s Nest,which is a nonprofit children’s community center. Drew was thrilled to have us come and said “Ma’am, we will take all that you have!” He then explained that he and other volunteers were taking items door to door in the community of Woodsboro to help them along while they recovered from Harvey and he told me, “there are kids here who lost all that they had.” I thanked him for calling me back and began rejoicing for God’s answer to my prayer for the perfect place; Woodsboro, Texas. God knew all that we had and He knew where it would most be needed. My heart was completely overjoyed! I was literally jumping up and down! It had taken a lot of time and a lot of effort, but God had led me to the location which was His will for The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. to go!
By 2:30pm we were on the road and headed for Texas! Our first day of travel was to make it to El Paso. We arrived safe and sound and singing the Marty Robbin’s song that takes place in El Paso with that “wicked Felina”, and could only find a Walmart open where we could get something to eat. Josh, having just received a smoker for his 40th birthday, was stunned to see that brisket cost about $30 less in Texas than in Phoenix and made plans to get one on the way back home… yum!
The next day, September 13th we headed out for San Antonio, this leg of the trip was over 500 miles –YIKES! Because of the weight of the trailer we were hauling we had to stop for gas (and a leg stretch) about every two hours. We arrived, once again, safe and sound in the beautiful, historic and charming city of San Antonio. I had been there three times previously, once with Josh, but this was our children’s first time there so, even though it was almost midnight, we had to drive them by the Alamo.
September 14th was delivery day! After a good night’s rest, we hit the road once again and headed south for Woodsboro. This trip would only take us about two and half hours, which when compared to traveling 8-9 hours a day would be a piece of cake.
As we drew closer, we saw the homes on the outskirts of town which had been affected by the storm. Nothing too devastating, fences torn down, many broken trees, some completely toppled, a roof top missing a section here and there, but as we drove farther south to Woodsboro the destruction became more evident. Now, the reality of the power of the storm set in. Almost every home was damaged and in much more serious ways. In some places there were only large piles of rubble which we knew were the leveled remains of a person’s home.
We arrived at the Eagle’s Nest Children’s Community Center to warm, welcoming, smiling, happy people. They were amazing! The volunteers there were hard at work at rebuilding their town and so thankful to be alive. I will never forget their strength. They greeted us with tremendous gratitude and expressed over and over again how much they appreciated our coming to bring things for their children. We began to unload the items we had collected in the back room of the children’s community center and then they took us inside. The center was being used as a collection spot for items for the town. Inside, they had power and air conditioning, which many residents there still did not have. Some did not even have running water.
There was a section of the center that was full of cots, which were being used by the selfless volunteers who had come there to help the good people of Woodsboro. We met a beautiful nurse from Austin who had come that week with her children to help, two men were from Kingman, Arizona, there was another lady who had been working there from Las Vegas and we also met a young man who was a volunteer firefighter from Fairfield, CT. For those of you who read my Intercessors books, you will know that was a treat for me, as my stories take place in Fairfield!
After we were finished unloading our trailer and spent time at the community center, we took a little tour of the town. Most of the businesses were closed down, but there was one store open, a quaint general store called Tuttle’s where we found great souvenirs and our kids found ice cream and other snacks. We could not drive through all of the streets as so many of them were lined with cut tree branches, items which were destroyed by the storm and also debris from homes. The roads were not blocked by these things, but some of the streets were too narrow for us to pull the trailer through. Every road we traveled down told the ravaging tale of Hurricane Harvey.
The photos and the videos we took can show the undoing of the Woodsboro community, but they cannot depict the experiences of being there. The smell of it, the rotten odor of decaying wood, stagnate water, and still marshy lands stewing in the humid heat and the bugs which are attracted by such things are not something you can understand from a photograph or video.
Being natives of Phoenix, my children had never experienced humidity. True, they knew scorching, blazing heat, the kind that can punch you in the face when you walk outside, but it is a dry heat–a phrase they never appreciated until experiencing the humidity in Woodsboro. When they would talk about how hot and sticky it was, their thoughts and minds then went to the good people of Woodsboro and so many other thousands of people in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean Islands which had been rampaged by hurricanes this season and who were still without water and power– which meant no air conditioning.
We left the quaint and inspiring town of Woodsboro that day deeply impacted. As we drove home we talked with our children about their feelings. They spoke about seeing all of the damage to the town and expressed their sorrow for all the work they had ahead of them to repair it. They talked about the joy they felt from giving all they had collected for the children there and how they wanted to continue to give to help rebuild the community center and also to give at Christmas to make sure the children there had a good one. They also talked about how kind everyone in the town was, how thankful they were to be alive even though the storm had torn their buildings apart, the people were determined to rebuild their homes and town. All in all, my children, along with Josh and myself, were tremendously inspired by the people of Woodsboro. Not just that, but also by the people of Texas in general. To have made as many phone calls as I did and hear how the people of each town wanted to take care of the next town in need was a beautiful thing to witness
The entire experience was a beautiful one. It was a perfect example of God turning mourning into dancing and creating something beautiful from ashes. It made my children so grateful for all that they had, and to understand how quickly life can change in the twinkling of an eye, or in this case, 5 hours of a massive hurricane. We have a great love for the people of Woodsboro, along with all of the other thousands of hurricane survivors from Texas, to Florida to the islands in the Atlantic who are and will be suffering for quite sometime with the pains of rebuilding their homes and their communities.
After returning to the hotel from Woodsboro, I did, as promised, receive a letter from sweet Lovee Sherwin of the Memorial Church of Christ. She was referring me to a place to take our donations. I wrote her and told her about what we did in Woodsboro and she was thrilled. Once again, I was so impressed. The resolve of the people of Texas is truly inspiring. They understand the power of love, compassion and taking care of each other in that state!
On the way home, I had a lot of time to reflect upon my personal experience in Texas. When I was 19 my family lost a home to a house fire. I know what it is like to have your home and possessions take away by a disaster, but I did not know what it looked like to lose an entire town. Now I know. As long as the people of that community are alive, the community lives on. The people of Woodsboro showed us that buildings can be rebuilt, perhaps even stronger than before. Their sense of community to look out for one another, love thy neighbor, lend a helping hand and be thankful to just be alive is an example for all of us to learn from and live by.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the hurricane victims and our family will be continuing to work with the town of Woodsboro, through the help of their lovely mayor Ms. Kay Roach, to help rebuild their children’s community center and also do what we can to help the families during Christmas time. If you would like to join us in this work, please visit out website at: www.huggabears.org
It was one of our family’s most beautiful experiences in our ministry work to go to Woodsboro, TX. The blessings of joy that we received were priceless and irreplaceable. It truly was an honor for us all. If you would like to watch our family’s “thank you” video compilation of our trip, please visit:
I would like to extend a sincere, heart felt thank you all those who gave so liberally foor this project. It is because of all of you that this trip was possible and I know without doubt that you brought incredible joy to all of the children of Woodsboro who were struggling through this trial in their life. You are a blessing and you are changing the world by loving those children! May God bless you richly for your obedience to give to others in need.
Thank you for taking the time to read this story. I hope that it will bless your heart and that you will share it with others as well! We hope you will keep the families who have been so devastated by Hurricanes Harvy, Irma and Maria in your prayers for the next year or so, they are going to be in need of our support for a long time to come.
Angelique La Fon-Cox
The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc.