I just returned from a two-day tour visiting evacuees from Hurricane Harvey as well as residents, children and families in Houston and Beaumont. Nothing compares to seeing things first hand. I can tell you that Buckner staff, children, families, and seniors are doing well despite the ravaging impact of Hurricane Harvey.
The tour started at the crack of dawn on Sunday with a drive to Camp Buckner in the Texas Hill Country to visit evacuees from the Buckner Children’s Village in Beaumont. My team and I arrived at Camp Buckner to visit with over 63 children in foster care, foster parents and staff. I had a chance to hear the stories of some of the children in our care. A little girl was removed from her home because her mother allowed a relative to come in the home and rape her while her brother stood helpless just outside the room banging on the door to break in and stop the madness as he heard her screams. Another brother and sister were removed from their home because the living conditions were terrible, wiping off roaches from the plates so they could take the next bite of their meal.
On top of all this trauma, Harvey came in and pulled the carpet out from under them. Due to the compromise in clean and drinkable water, we decided to evacuate these precious children last Friday after days of monitoring and discussion. By the time I saw them at Camp Buckner, they seemed happy and safe, even having gone through the storm. They were enjoying the peacefulness of God’s presence among the running spring just outside the cafeteria and looking forward to swimming in the afternoon. Just as heroic as these children were the incredible staff and families who evacuated from Beaumont as well, many of whom lost everything at home. They represent Buckner at our best.
From Camp Buckner we drove to Houston through back-roads to get to the Buckner Parkway Place Retirement Community. We found the residents safe and dry and again, our incredible staff led by Susan Phelps. Many of these staff were living at work having lost most if not everything at home. I was deeply moved at the compassion demonstrated by our staff. This kind of commitment does not normally come from a job, rather, it comes from a deep sense of calling. The greatest concern of the Parkway residents was the well-being of our Parkway staff. I assured them we were working on solutions to take care of our staff who suffered great loss during Harvey.
At the end of our first day, a couple of things seem clear to me. Our staff is resilient and committed to this ministry and those they serve. Our children are resilient even among terrible circumstances and an unprecedented storm. Our seniors are pretty incredible and resilient folks too. This is Buckner at our best. We shine hope.
More about Day 2 tomorrow, stay tuned.