It has been almost seven months since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. Hundreds still can’t return to their homes. And thousands of Christian volunteers standing alongside helping them rebuild.
The category 4 storm left 108 dead, caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, and left more than 780,000 people in Texas and Louisiana at least temporarily homeless, making it among the costliest natural disasters ever in the United States.
While the media and much of the nation has forgotten about the storm-ravaged region, 4,696 volunteers from 47 states have been in Texas helping the victims rebuild. They’ll be there for another five days. The army of volunteers was organized by Eight Days of Hope, a Christian nonprofit organization that is both evangelical and non-denominational. The group’s website says it exists to demonstrate the love and hope of Jesus Christ by serving those in need.
Eight Days of Hope began in 2005 as a one-time relief effort following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. In the 13 years since, the ministry has sent thousands of volunteers to help people devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods across the U.S. with one goal—to love and serve those in need.
Volunteers for the ministry have helped 285 families rebuild their homes, at no charge, following Harvey. One of those volunteers is pastor Daniel Owolabi from New Point Church in Ohio. He told Fox 26 in Houston that he volunteered because “Jesus has called us to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.”
Gina Ledford came with a group of volunteers from Arizona. She said, “We all go through storms, we all have troubles, and if we can lend a helping hand to someone else when they are in trouble, then it’s kind of like what the Lord has done for us.”
Seventeen-year-old Cohen Perez gave up his spring break to drive 20 hours from Ohio to help. He told the television station he considered it a small sacrifice: “It’s not about us, it’s about the people who need help—to give them a sense of hope.”
And they are succeeding. An unidentified victim of Hurricane Harvey thanked the volunteers by telling them how much their efforts are appreciated, “For the first time in six months my house feels like a home because I have walls.”
The ministry calls this the largest 15-day recovery-relief effort in U.S.history.
Eight Days of Hope began sending volunteers to the Houston area in early September and have remained throughout the rebuilding process. The volunteers “muck” out homes, remove furnishings, clean up debris and do some construction work for as many families as possible.
The primary goal of the ministry’s Rapid Response team is to show the love of Jesus Christ to disaster victims 48-72 hours after a disaster strikes anywhere in the contiguous 48 states. During their efforts, the volunteers seek to build bonds with home owners, community leaders and other disaster relief organizations for immediate relief and in hope of laying a foundation for future disaster-recovery efforts.