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What Happened in Houston... Thanks to You!

September 18, 2017

From Ashley Pearl-
The last thing I thought we would be doing on August one Tuesday morning, was packing our bags, and driving ten hours south of here because of a devastating hurricane that had just swept through Texas. But one thing led to the next and we somehow found ourselves getting out of bed and jumping in the car, then driving to pick up a boat from our friend Joey Miller. It took about thirty minutes before we were on the road again. Then not three hours into the drive, we got some calls from the local Sherriff stations that the biggest need would be serving food to hungry first responders, Fire men, our own Military, Police, and countless victims of the hurricane Harvey, whose houses had been destroyed. We got several more calls from local Sherriff stations that they were cold, thirsty exhausted, and VERY hungry. Even the local restaurants had been flooded. So before we reached any of the flooded sections of Texas, we stopped at several different grocery stores.

The first store we arrived at, it was hard not to be embarrassed as people gave us dirty looks as we stood at the cash register, with a train of seven people pushing carts loaded with the store's stock of burger/hotdog buns, syrup, pancake mix, meat, plates, water and countless other items, all the while, we were standing there laughing as the credit card scanner denied our purchases because we were out of state and the card company wanted to make sure our card wasn't stolen. We went from one store to the next, completely gutting the shelves of food, and after many embarrassing, and exciting stops, we finally reached my grandparent's house at two o'clock in the morning. It couldn't be soon enough. We half jumped, half fell out of the suburban, and collapsed onto the carpet floor for the remainder of the morning. The next day was interesting. After we awoke, we were welcomed by my mama's sister and her husband and four kids, who were temporarily staying because they were trapped by the flood waters rising in their neighborhood, and my grandparents friend's who's house and belongings were destroyed. My parents, and Aunt Zalina went to a local church to discuss a game plan to get to the most destroyed neighborhoods, but when they came back about an hour later, they told us all the calls for help had been answered. I was heartbroken. "What would we do with all this food?" The answer came to us later that morning when someone called and said they needed food in a town about an hour away from Cleveland, TX.

When we got there, it was clear that part of the city had been through devastation. Popular squares with popular restaurants were quiet and abandoned, and as we drove over a bridge, we could see how high the water was. We at last came to a stop in a small town square where volunteers had dropped off victims from the flood. It was hot, and dry from where we were standing, and people were hungry and thirsty. So we set to work grilling burgers, and hot dogs under the shade of an abandoned strip mall. More and more people arrived, being picked up from their flooded neighborhoods, and dropped off where we were. The people getting off were shocked. Some of them were wet, and they carried one suitcase each, and usually a pet. The parking lot was crowded where we were grilling. People were staring wide eyed in the hope for food, and we were happy to give it to them. They were friendly, and thankful, and even happy. Once everyone was fed, we began wrapping large quantities of food in aluminum foil and stacking them in trays. We were told that the men performing the rescues were hungry, so we walked up and down the streets, handing out food and water until we ran out and had to restock. We stayed there for a while until the day drew to a close, and we got ready to leave.

The second day, we knew exactly where we were going. It was a quieter spot than last time, and today we had a bigger crew. It was the first time we met up with Joey Miller and his group since the day we left, plus my aunt Zalina's friend, Heather Ellzey, who had come to help the Harvey victims. The day was the same, hot dogs and hamburgers, and the routine had already set in my mind. Grab a burger, bread, cheese, smear ketchup and mustard, wrap securely in aluminum foil, pass to next person. Our table was the tailgate of Heather's truck. I was awestruck at how thankful everyone was. Their homes had been destroyed, some of them had lost loved ones, yet they were thankful. It was a good feeling. It was getting darker, and the sun was setting, but we still were not ready to leave. There was one more place to be before the day had ended. It was not far from where we had been cooking earlier that day. It was a different parking lot, and next to it was a building filled with hungry citizens. Before we had even begun grilling, people had started crowding around us. The smell of burgers and hotdogs was enticing to someone that hasn't eaten for twenty four hours, but there was another food truck there that would be taking over, so after two days in Kountze we could see that our help would be needed elsewhere. Judge Wayne McDaniel called the Sour Lake Fire Department, and we were off.

We had quite a bit of trouble finding the small town Fire Department. Well, it wasn't finding it, so much as getting there. We were a train. four vehicles and a boat, driving on a back country road. In some spots, the water was covering, but it was mostly dry, on the road that is. Fields stretched out for miles, looking more like glistening lakes than devastating flood waters. We drove past several houses, and saw them flooded with water all the way past the porch. It became worse and worse the further we drove, but I couldn't hold back a smile when I saw a man in his front yard stretched out on a kayak. He was fishing! He acted as though it were the best vacation ever. When he saw me gaping at him, he nodded politely and returned my smile. Up ahead there were two more men fishing, but my favorite was Porky, a pig stuffing himself on shrubs growing on the outside of someone's fence.

About an hour later, we were met by a tall man wearing what looked like rubber overalls, and another man in a tractor with water halfway up his back tires. We were so close. On the other side of this wall of water, were people that needed us, and we had already missed the whole morning. We were devastated to here we had to turn around. So back up the road we went. When we got to the beginning of the backroad again, the adults parked the cars and started to decide where to go next. All the other roads were closed, and the only way across was though a highway covered over the top with water. We started again, yard by agonizingly slow yard. To give you an idea of how slow we were moving, I could have belly crawled, and been the first person across. I hung my head out the window, and watched the water ripple across the road as rubber tires rolled over it.

The sun was at it's highest now, the Fire station was waiting for us, we were about three miles away, and we were not going to get there for another four hours! When we finally crossed, it was dinner time, so we rushed to the Fire Station. We were on a small patch of grass right up against the Firehouse. Joey had beaten us there, and had already begun setting up. It was complete with everything we would need would need, and the people were hungry. The main rush hours were breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with some in between. We had fun brainstorming what our next meal would be. The breakfast menu was three to four hundred eggs, nine pounds of hash browns, and twenty pounds of pancake mix. Some groups would even come by and order seven to forty meals to-go. We got up every day at around five-thirty, giving us enough time to prep for breakfast so the Fire Station and all first responders got fed first, then the Harvey victims, and then the Military arrived. We had 5 different fire departments, 3 different paramedic companies, SWAT, Cadaver teams, Texas Rangers, Airborne military, Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife, Air Medics, Animal Rescue, and the Texas National Guard. The Fire station was a bustling hub of activity. We would start with breakfast ready at 6:30 am and make and serve food until 9-10pm.

Many times we would have the food put away and another rescue team would show up late at night. We went into action getting them a hot meal and a smile, even though we were dead on our feet. A sample of our menu was: Breakfast- Breakfast scramble, pancakes, and fruit. Lunch- Grilled hamburgers, chicken thighs, pinto beans, rice. Supper- Harvey Gumbo ( left over meats from grilling, beans, rice, veggies, and seasonings), or pasta bake and 40 lbs. of grilled zucchini and onions. Daddy and Mama made sure to have fresh hot coffee all day as well. We were making food for at least 1,500 people a day. The Red Cross even showed up on our doorstep. Later into the week, the shortage on ice problem, which was a big problem since it kept our meat, condiments and drinks cold, was solved by an ice truck that parked itself in front of our mobile restaurant. I do not know who parked it there, or who it belonged to, but I am glad they did. The most fun was after the lunch or dinner hour, before all the soldiers left. We sat around the table and played cards, or talked, and sang a lot, thanks to Martha and Victoria Goodrich, and there's not one minute of it we didn't enjoy. It was fun watching the girls try to give the soldiers much needed singing lessons. Brittany, who sadly had to go back to her home in College Station, was the wonderful baker who could make gourmet bread pudding out of stale hotdog and hamburger buns.

We loved the whole Fire Station staff. We had fun serving them, talking, laughing, and scrubbing the floors (which really was a lot of fun). The soldiers were the best part of breakfast, when they showed up in their huge army trucks and ate our food, especially Jerry, who was my mamma's personal sous chef and water boy. Every day, Heather, me and usually someone else would drive to the Senior Center. Before we arrived in Sour Lake, the flood waters had come all the way up against the small apartments, and although everyone was okay, they were in need of food and fellowship. Our specialty. Three times a day, we came with hot food, and put it on the serving tables. Even after we came home, Heather continues to stay in touch with them. Then there was the matter of getting food to those that could not come to the Fire Station. We began with sitting in the back of a truck loaded with food and cold drinks, and driving all over the closed roads and flooded sections to hand out to the hungry workers, but they quickly got word around of where we were. We also put out signs so people would know where we were. Also, I thank the Chief Glenn Withers, who allowed us to use the Firehouse throughout the weeks, without any complaint. I do not know what we would have done without Heather, who had shopping duty, probably the most exhausting, and boring job yet. She also fed the seniors, and arranged their meals three times a day, and it was also just nice to have another friend around. Joey Miller, Gloria, Wilma, and Monroe were a huge help, and we had fun working side by side. Uncle Ryan, Uncle Gilbert, Aunt Zalina, Daddy and Mama worked all day, every day making sure we had everything we needed. A huge thanks and appreciation for everyone that supported us and donated for the victims of Harvey Hurricane. None of it would have been possible without you. We will forever miss the friends we made at the Sour Lake Fire Department, it has been a pleasure serving you and the Harvey victims.

From Nathan and Zephyr (Ashley's mom and dad)-

Nathan and I want to personally thank all of you who donated to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort. Below is something Nathan wrote and asked me to post.

It is hard to quantify the joy that it has been to represent the name of Christ to those who have been so devastated by Hurricane Harvey. In the book of James, James asked how can we see a brother or sister in need and say "be warm and filled" and yet do nothing to meet those needs. In this he posits that our hearts hurting for the needy means nothing without action and further that our actions say more about our hearts than our words ever could. As followers of Christ we are commanded to love our neighbors and even though we do love them and pray for them how do we adequately Express that our hearts desire for them is good. You see Christians are different, we are not normal, we are A peculiar people with peculiar ideas and priorities. It's not just what we do, but why we do it, how we do it, and for whom. I am above all else a follower of Jesus Christ, an ambassador of the most high God, and when I love, it is not I, but Christ who lives in me. Because of this, it has been my absolute privilege to represent the interest of Jesus to the people of Texas. And this would not have been possible without so many generous gifts that we used to buy food and fuel. My friends, I cannot tell you how honored I am to be a part of this family that is the body of Christ. In Luke chapter 10 where Christ recounts the story of the Good Samaritan the kind man met a stranger's physical need with his time, gooods, and money. In verse 37 Jesus tells us "go thou and do likewise". It has been our privilege to be the arms, feet, and face. We did not have the resources to be the purse. I want to say THANK YOU to so many of you who said yes to Luke 10:37 and made a difference in the lives of so many in Texas. I wish I could convey to you all the many times that someone with tears in their eyes said, "thank you so much for being here and doing this!" I want you to know that the seeds that were sown were sown by you. The days that we would get a hot breakfast on the table by 6:30 am, feed people all day, and into the night, we were so aware that without you, our grills would have been empty. The cost of feeding 1800 people a day is staggering. Every time that I got to put my arm around someone and pray for them or carry an old ladies food and cold water to the car, I knew that it was because of you who gave so generously that we got to have that opportunity. My friends the Word of God says "let the redeemed of the Lord say so" well you have, loud and clear and the echo will be heard in Texas for a long time to come!