Kin

 

 

 

I spent the past week talking funny. 

 

I was part of a team that went to Vidor, Texas, to help repair some of the homes devastated by Hurricane Harvey last year. Vidor is a town of about 10,000 tucked back into the corner of southeast Texas. It’s less than 25 miles from both the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana.

 

So, of course, I didn’t talk like folks that were from there. Granted, I did catch myself saying “y’all” once or twice and it was very easy to respond “Yessir,” and “Yes, ma’am,” when asked if I enjoyed the jambalaya, creole shrimp, blackened redfish, and/or gumbo. The people of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church were very loving, generous, and hospitable when it came to feeding the 30 of us like kings.

 

One of the words I noticed in their conversations was “kin.” No doubt those of you who are familiar with Kinship Christian Radio certainly know what that word means, but I’ve never heard anyone here in the frozen north casually remark, “Yessir, they’re kin.”

 

But it’s a very relevant word for what went on last week.

 

Before I left for Vidor, I did an internet search just to find out where it was. In doing so, I discovered that Vidor had at one time been a “sundown town” where black people were not welcome after dark –and it was enforced by the town police. The Ku Klux Klan had held a march there in 1993 protesting plans to bring African Americans into public housing.

 

It was one of the first things we talked about with Pastor Skipper Sauls when we arrived. While we were still in the parking lot, before we were even finished unloading our bags, the subject came up and Skipper did not dodge the question. He admitted that Vidor had indeed engaged in racism in its past. He grew up here and he remembered Klan events taking place when he was a child about 40 years ago. He said all that has changed now, and although there were probably still a few old racists  in this town, anyone and everyone was welcome in this church to experience the love of Jesus Christ.

 

But let me back up for a moment and give you some background: Hurricane Harvey came ashore on August 26, 2017, near Rockport, Texas, southwest of Vidor, with winds of 130 mph. The storm’s winds weakened shortly thereafter, but the megastorm slowed to a crawl and began dumping absolutely phenomenal amounts of rain over the course of the next two days. At one point, an official in nearby Tyler County announced: “Anyone who chooses to not [evacuate] cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified. The loss of life and property is certain. GET OUT OR DIE!”

 

Before it was over, Houston had been saturated with over 30 inches of rain and Nederland, Texas, (right next to Vidor) measured over 60 inches of rainfall. The rain came so hard and so fast that the Army Corp of Engineers had opened the gates on reservoirs upstream from Vidor for fear that the levees holding back the waters would fail. With five feet of rainfall and the dam gates opened, the entire area was absolutely inundated.

 

Skipper took us on a tour of some of the areas where he and others from the church had rescued people using a boat. We stopped at one point and he showed us  the place where the boat’s propeller had hit the top of a stop sign beneath the flood waters. We turned down a side street and he showed us a video taken in that boat motoring along in that exact location. At one point, the motor hit a submerged object and they later found out it had broken the sunroof out of a parked car.

Of course, the damage to homes and cars was devastating. Most of the homes sit on concrete slabs just a couple of inches above ground level because the frost never enters the ground there. Even in homes that sit on blocks, all the carpet and all the drywall in virtually every home was destroyed.

 

Skipper has a background in construction and remodeling and the Lord opened doors for donated materials from numerous companies, ministries, and churches. I was among a crew of 15 that arrived at the church two days before another crew of 15 arrived to also participate in the work of restoring homes.

 

One crew was building a porch, another was hanging drywall in a different home, and I was working on a home in need of interior paint, kitchen counters, and floor tile. I was assigned to floor tile because I had some experience in that area.  Over the course of five days, we tiled four bedrooms, a bathroom and a half, a hallway, the laundry room, and a section of the main living area. It quickly became obvious that my “experience” with floor tile was approximately equal to my experience with flapping my arms and flying to the moon in comparison to what Skipper’s 16 year-old son, Isaac, knew about the subject. After five days, I can now truthfully say I know how to effectively mix up a five gallon bucket of thin-set mortar.

 

I can also say that, although I now have much more knowledge, there is no way my now 60 year-old body could be used to support my family as a professional tiler.

 

But much more importantly, I am the recipient of the incredible joy that comes from knowing that within a couple of days the family that has been living in an RV trailer in the backyard of their own home will be able to move out of that cramped space and cook meals, wash clothes, and sleep in their home.

 

They are beautiful people who helped us any way they could, lifting heavy tile, sweeping up dusty construction debris, and radiating appreciative smiles for all we did over the course of that week.

 

And as we all stood in that house for a final prayer and blessing over this home and this family, we were all tired and hot and aching and dusty and dirty.

 

And we all looked a little like Jesus.

 

We all looked and felt like kin.

 

And kin is thicker than how you talk or the color of your skin or the depth of the flood waters.

 

Today’s Praise

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12&13 (NIV)

 

 

 

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