HOUSTON, Texas - A church group headed from Portland to Central America on a mission is stranded in Houston because of Harvey.
The group of 12 adults representing Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, Bridgetown Church and others, touched down in Houston on Saturday morning. Four hours later, the hurricane halted their trip.
“We were originally planning on going to Nicaragua, but we don't have to be there to be goodness and light,” said Jessica Skinner, 22.
That epiphany fueled the group, which was able to book rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn about 15 miles north of downtown and out of the flood zone.
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They were soon followed by several families rescued from flood-ravaged neighborhoods, each with awe-inspiring stories.
“One family was taken from a helicopter from their home,” said Christine Swanson, 25. “We had asked one woman how she was feeling and she said, ‘I feel like we're in Heaven, it's dry, it's clean, I know I'm safe, this is like Heaven.’ She was so grateful.”
The group packed soccer balls, craft supplies and T-shirts to give to kids in Nicaragua. They brought guitars which they would have played for them. Blessings they redirected to children in Houston and their families.
“Some of them don't have flood insurance and they might not be able to get their homes back at all,” said Sam Schifferdecker, 25. “But they're just glad to be alive, so to me, that's one of the most powerful things I've seen all week.”
Members of the church group said instead of offering encouragement with words, they’re trying to be good listeners to the adults, while engaging the kids in actives that might make them smile.
“What we're doing isn't unique or special at all,” said Skinner. “This is happening all over the city of Houston.”
While the church group’s eyes and hearts were focused on those in the hotel, they hoped friends at home would be able to see the big picture of need, and do what they can to help.
“Prayers and thoughts and good vibes are needed right now,” said Skinner. “What's needed is aid.”
The group did not plan on moving on to Nicaragua. They hoped to fly home to Portland on Friday, if conditions allowed.