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Janine Roberts ~ Notes from Houston: Giving and Receiving

I am writing from an air mattress at my coworkers’ house late at night. I just ate some fabulous fajitas around a table filled with laughter and shared stories after watching the sun set slowly from someone else’s backyard.  

I drove home from work last Thursday night jovially saying goodnight to everyone, knowing we would probably be “hunkered down” for the next few days to ride out Hurricane Harvey and his aftermath. It felt a little exciting at first, like anticipating a snow day when I was younger and growing up in West Virginia. But over the next days, which has now turned into a week, the excitement drained away with every tornado warning, every flood warning, every flash of tragedy that unfolded from the news reports and social media.  

I am back in the place of being the recipient of others’ generosity and overwhelming support. This is a familiar place for me, after living many years in Zimbabwe as a missionary and knowing that both my programs and personal finances depended on the kindness of others. When I could no longer renew my work visa and had to leave Zimbabwe, I somehow ended up at Chapelwood UMC, a large church community in Houston, Texas, as a Missions Director.  

All of a sudden, the tables were turned and I was now in charge, along with my committee, of dispensing funds to hopeful missionaries and programs around the world who were just as eager as I had once been to be good stewards of what they were given. When disasters happened around the world and closer to home, Chapelwood generously donated funds and manpower in whatever way was most needed.  

Over the last three years working here in Houston, I have been privileged to have other staff and members become my family. My family has also grown to include people from Haiti and Kenya and other parts of Texas. My family now includes people from Estonia and Louisiana and Costa Rica. When our family in Haiti was suffering from Hurricane Matthew, we were there. When flooding devastated Louisiana, we were there. When Kenya experienced famine from drought we were there.  

Now we are the ones who are in devastation. We look out our windows and see swimming pools where parking lots should be and boats where cars used to drive.  

And the emails and phone calls and social media posts pour in: from Stanley in Kenya, from Meeli in Estonia, Pastor Carlos in Weslaco, Texas and Paul in Haiti. And all over the U.S. they assure us: We are praying for you. We are sending support. We are coming.  

I had to evacuate my home this morning, to join the tens of thousands of others who are now displaced. But we will be okay again one day soon because of your prayers and your presence and your gifts, service, and witness.  

And because of the beautiful, compassionate, resilient people of Houston who have rallied around each other. We represent every tribe, tongue and nation here in Houston. Although we are in the midst of deep waters this week, we have also experienced a hint of heaven.