This week my heart and prayers have been with the people of Texas! Anne Neilson Home has several stores in Texas that carry our products. I have friends and even daughters living in Dallas. My girls are not in the heart of the damage, thankfully, but I do have close friends who are affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Watching the coverage has given many of us, including me, flashbacks to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans on August 23, 2005. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in church with my family, at the time my children were 9, 8, 6 and 3. There was a group of people sitting next to me, who were visiting from out of town. As we worshiped I noticed that their eyes were closed and their hands were raised high. That expression of worship is not one that you witness frequently in a Presbyterian church (The phrase that I often heard that makes me laugh is that Presbyterians were the ‘frozen chosen’). For some reason tears welled up inside me as I witnessed these three just praising, and then I watched as the offering plate passed by, dig deep in their pockets and pull out a few dollars. Later that morning after the service, I introduced myself and realized that they were part of the storm. They were homeless.They lost everything in New Orleans and had moved to Charlotte looking to restore and rebuild their lives.
A friend had invited them to church that day and was helping them find new places to live. In our conversation, I asked what they missed most and how we could help. Darren Nelson, one of the hurricane victims, said that he missed the Cajun food, and he missed cooking. He loved to cook and wanted to get his hands back in a kitchen. He promised that he could make a mean jambalaya. We all agreed that we would host a dinner at my house and set the date. Our family took them shopping, not only for food, but we surprised each of them and took them on a huge shopping spree for clothes.
We invited members of the congregation to bring items to outfit a new apartment for them: Vacuums, coffee makers, new towels, new sheets, utensils… Everything that someone would need to set up a brand new home. When our new friends showed up to cook they were also greeted with gifts for their new beginnings! It was a magical night watching these three in the kitchen having the time of their lives. We ate. We laughed. We cried. We loved. We gave hope. But even more than that — after dinner, Darren sat down at the piano and began to play (and sing!) Little did we know that he was a gifted gospel singer that would bring us all to tears. As we gathered our crowd around the piano, we all broke out in worship.
We stood in community praising God for the storm, knowing He would take us safely through the storm and deliver us on the other side. Darren taught me a valuable lesson that night (and that morning in church). No matter what we are faced by the storms of life…we have a choice. We can lift our arms high to a living God giving Him thanks and praise no matter what our circumstances are. We can trust that our God will carry us through the storm.
We didn’t have smart phones back then to capture every moment, and as much as I wish I had captured them, they are burned into my heart forever. The love and the joy despite the loss. As I turn on the TV today, I am reminded of the love from years ago. I am encouraged that there are countless volunteers. There are the Darren’s in the midst of Texas, and there are others reaching out and offering HOPE. We are releasing a small 5”x5” limited edition print entitled HOPE. 100% of the proceeds will go back to help offer relief for Harvey Hurricane victims. I am encouraged once again that we have a GOD who will carry each one affected by the storm. You can purchase your ‘angel’ here. Keep it as a reminder our God our Hope! Join me as we continue to pray for Texas!