From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UMNS# 525-Volunteers pour into Texas to rebuild after Hurricane Rita

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 1 Sep 2006 17:32:29 -0500

Volunteers pour into Texas to rebuild after Hurricane Rita

Sep. 1, 2006 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert * (615) 7425470* Nashville {525}

NOTE: Photographs, video, an interactive map and related coverage are available at

By Eleanor L. Colvin*

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (UMNS) -- Temperatures topped 95 degrees -- not to mention the humidity. Rain showers were unpredictable and unrelenting. None of that deterred 15-year-old Lyssa Harper from being part of a weeklong Hurricane Rita recovery effort.

Harper labored alongside fellow youth and adult volunteers, in spite of the fact that she has a legitimate reason to avoid laboring under the oppressive Texas sun.

Harper suffers from occipital neuralgia, a condition that has inflamed the nerves from the base of her spine to her skull. Headaches, body aches, fever, and more, make mission work difficult.

"I was nervous about coming, but God took care of me really well," Harper said. "Yeah, I had headaches, but he made it so I didn't have to leave the work site. He'll make sure that I'm well enough to help in all the ways that I can."

Lyssa was one of more than 50 members from First United Methodist Church in Round Rock, Texas, who spent a week in June rebuilding the devastated community of Port Arthur. Temple United Methodist Church in Port Arthur housed the volunteers.

Since the September 2005 hurricane, more than 200 teams totaling 2,000-plus volunteers from across the country have served in the "Golden Triangle," the area between the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

Still waiting

Angela Baker, director of Rita Recovery of the Texas Annual (regional) Conference, a United Methodist Committee on Relief partner, said more volunteers are needed as there are more than 900 families on the recovery center's waiting list. Storm damage estimates exceed $8 million.

"Every day, we receive a call from a family saying: 'Can you help me?'" Baker said. "They pass by a work team or see us working on their neighbor's house and then ask how they can get help."

Baker says some people say they can't volunteer because they don't have adequate experience; they are too busy, or they are too young.

Those excuses were blown out of the water by the 50 young volunteers from Round Rock, a 150-member team from Aledo United Methodist Church outside of Fort Worth, and a team from Schertz United Methodist Church of San Antonio.

Words of encouragement

Chelsea Liccion, 14, of Schertz Church said the work was hard because it was different from what she was accustomed to doing, but she committed to it because she wanted to serve God and help others.

Aledo Sam Kite, 14, of Aledo Church encourages people to think about how their sacrifice will touch another person. "We were building a wheelchair ramp for a family," Sam said. "The client was just sitting at the screen door watching us with tears running down her face."

One short week made one big impact. The three Texas teams along with volunteer teams from Colorado and Utah completed work on 60 homes.

"We love you for being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ," said Baker, in appreciation of the teams' service and as an invitation to future volunteers.

People interested in volunteering can call Bonnie McAndrews, volunteer coordinator, at (409) 892-0140 or at Recovery updates are available at

*Colvin is editor of Cross Connection and communications director for the Texas Annual (regional) Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or


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