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By The Reverend Manisha Dostert & Stephanie Caponigro, Secretary of Harvey Leadership Mission
And God said, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. – Genesis 9:15
The thing about a tragedy or a disaster, floods or hurricanes, there comes an end. And surprisingly, sometimes, a rainbow.
On August 17, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, causing significant and widespread damage.
Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo, a beautiful church serving the Spanish-speaking community around it, had flooding in all of its buildings. The education wing and Sanctuary took on enough water to need to be gutted. The kitchen had water running down its wall, damaging the appliances. The Fellowship Hall sustained damage and as a result, for over two months, church services were held outdoors under a tent. Meanwhile, the community struggled mightily as their apartments, cars and workplaces flooded.
The people of Christ Church Cranbrook were asked to respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers. Within three weeks, $75,000 was raised, and a team of parishioners were asked to communicate with Padre Janssen Gutierrez and determine how to help San Mateo with funds and hands-on help. Craig Fitzgerald spearheaded the team of Silvia Karlsson, Stephanie Caponigro, Christopher deMovellan, Michael Froelich and Pastor Manisha.
Padre Janssen shared the community surrounding the church was hurting — people needed rent money, insurance premiums, food. San Mateo set up a fund with the money we provided, helping people with immediate needs. They also used the funds for community meals, which was often, in those first weeks, the only meal many of the residents had.
Four of us traveled in the winter to San Mateo. What a joyous trip it was! They welcomed us with open arms. We fell in love with this vibrant, worshiping community. We learned that despite the hardship, nothing would rob them of their joy. Their resilience in the face of such daunting problems was a witness to us.
In the summer, a group of youth traveled with Pastor Manisha to Houston on a week-long mission trip to engage in acts of service. The highlight of the trip was engagement with the youth at San Mateo. It was a beautiful sight to see all the teens hanging out, eating pizza and playing soccer.
We hoped to follow up with an adult mission trip to the church; however, the work left to be done in San Mateo had to be completed by professionals. After prayer and discernment, the committee decided to gift San Mateo with the uncommitted funds raised for this partnership. In October, we will be sending a check to San Mateo for almost $33,000 so they may continue to build again what the hurricane took away.
We were blessed to be teamed up with such a vibrant, caring, hospitable and loving Community Partner as San Mateo and are confident God will be blessing San Mateo as they continue building their parish community.