My new neighbors – they’re Texans

Craftsmen for Christ of Yuba City ventured to Texas in late December 2017 and January 2018 with a crew of 36 to help with disaster recovery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The storm dumped up to 5 feet of rain in 5 days over the greater Houston area last summer, flooding thousands of homes and businesses and more, including The Little Country Church and its 108-acre camp in New Caney north of Houston and areas near The Chocolate Bayou Worship Center in Alvin, south of the metropolis.

Members of The Bride Church and Craftsmen for Christ in Yuba City witnessed accounts of the devastation in Houston and immediately wanted to help. But it took nearly 5 months to develop plans and coordinate logistics for a disaster recovery effort. By December, Hurricane Harvey was a nearly forgotten headline in a flurry of natural disasters. Other fierce storms tore through Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Earthquakes pummeled Mexico. Mammoth, wind-driven fires erupted in California. Scores of people died as flames soared through the Napa-Sonoma wine country destroying thousands of homes in October. Closer to home, members and friends of The Bride Church escaped blazes in Loma Rica, some with only the clothes on their back. Should Craftsmen go to Texas with so many immediate neighbors in need? Plans and funds for a post-Christmas Texas trip progressed while roadblocks to helping fire victims mounted. Texas was still a go.

The Little Country Church in New Caney, Texas, and its camp suffered flood damage to 17 of its 18 buildings on the 108-acre spread. The worship center and nearby children’s ministry buildings were among the hardest hit, along with the homes of the pastoral staff.

A goal to repair the worship center by Jan. 8, 2018, was set by the church, but repairs the children’s facility, a double-wide modular building, were deemed too difficult to fit the timetable. After 4 months of working on the renovations, and helping in their community, Pastor Jerry Horvater said his folks were spent.

Bob Ouzts, pastor of The Bride, and James Steele, coordinator of the Craftsmen ministry, flew to Texas in early December to spy out the land for ways the Yuba City team could plug in to ongoing recovery. They met Pastor Jerry Hovater, a former Bible College classmate of Dallas Weiher, who became acquainted with Craftsmen for Christ after a California flood ravaged Emmanuel Faith Tabernacle. In 1997 Dallas was a youth pastor in the Linda church. It was one of the communities near Yuba City inundated after a levee break on the Feather River. Craftsmen, then led by Outz, birthed its recovery ministry during that disaster, helping hundreds in the Plumas Lake, Arboga and Linda areas rebuild after floodwaters submerged homes.

In Texas, the damage to the New Caney Children’s Church building required nearly a total makeover. Floodwaters rose more than 4 feet inside, ruining the floor, insulation and drywall and the porch deck. Before any interior repairs could begin, the old floor had to be removed from the metal frame. New insulation and plywood flooring were installed, along with new drywall. Then, two bathrooms and a dividing wall were added and a suspended ceiling and heat and air system repaired. Outside, the deck and a new railing were finished, leaving only the the floor covering for the New Caney crew to install.

The Craftsmen team moved south to the Chocolate Bayou Worship Center in Alvin for part two of its adventure. Pastor Steve Vaughn and his congregation had served as a shelter for as many as 60 people after the August 2017 hurricane flooded homes nearby. Five or six folks were still living at the church in January 2018, bedding down on Red Cross cots in Sunday school rooms.

The Chocolate Bayou Worship Center opened its new church doors on Easter Sunday 2017, the same day many of the Craftsmen team celebrated the move of The Bride Church in Yuba City to its new digs. As work began on an unfinished section of the Chocolate Bayou church, other ties between Yuba City and the Alvin community unfolded. When the Craftsmen trip was still in the planning stages, a call between old friends alerted Craftsmen team member Randy Dahm to the role played by the Chocolate Bayou church after Harvey. Pastor Bob Outz and James Steele met Pastor Steve Vaughn and toured a neighborhood of flooded homes where the church had offered help. One of the homes they saw belonged to Jenny Preston, the former Yuba City woman who had talked to Randy Dahm. Pastor Steve had not yet learned of her Yuba City history when he pointed to her ravaged home, and one nearby where her brother had lived.  Richard Preston’s landlord decided to wait on repairs after Harvey, so Richard opted to buy a pre-fabricated shell home and finish it himself on property one street away from his sister.

Craftsmen took on finishing Jenny’s bedroom and helping Richard get closer to moving back in from a motel into a permanent home. The California team completed Jenny’s room and helped insulate and install drywall at Richard’s. At the church, insulation, drywall and electrical work readied a pastoral office, counseling and reception area nearly ready for tape and texturing.

A second, smaller team from Yuba City visited Texas Feb. 27-Mar. 6, 2018. Four of the nine stopped to see the completed children’s building at The Little Country Church in New Caney and join the Wednesday night service before meeting the remainder of the team at nearby Bush International Airport. However, the weather intervened. The other five Craftsmen’s flight to Houston from Dallas was repeatedly delayed and finally canceled after midnight. Nearly a full day later, they flew in to Hobby airport, exhausted as they reached the Chocolate Bayou church.

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