In June of 2013, a flooding disaster left residents of Eagle Pass in great need of reconstruction and attention to damage due to rising water levels. Two years after the natural disaster, Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery is continuing to send groups of volunteers to help the community repair damages, provide service to those in need and share the love of Christ.
Eagle Pass, a town on the border of Texas and Mexico, is located in Maverick County, which is the ninth poorest county in the United States. Due to the flooding from 2013, the community's poverty levels only increased as many people lacked the resources to properly fix damages to their homes.
The city's proximity to metropolitan areas and rough terrain can be deterrents for volunteers, but TBDR encourages churches willing to help with disaster recovery to push themselves outside of their comfort zone because Maverick County, specifically Eagle Pass, is where the need is great.
"The Lord did not train his disciples in the context of the synagogue," Texas Baptists Missions Mobilization director, Josue Valerio said. "He trained His disciples in the context of the mission field. He often sent them to places that were outside of their comfort zone."
TBDR partners with Mission Border Hope, an organization that works with teams of missionaries. They make plans for the missionaries to work at food banks, paint houses, do lawn care, reconstruct damaged buildings and lead vacation bible schools for the local children.
"It's my job to work here, but I would do it for free," the Director of Mission Border Hope administrative assistant, Valeria Wheeler said. "There are a lot of volunteers who do it for free to help others though, and we are always very grateful to Texas Baptists for coming to Eagle Pass. We really appreciate their partnership."
After disaster strikes, many group of volunteers like Texas Baptist Men are sent out to help with immediate disaster relief. However, the need for recovery in a community is just as important for the long-term health of a community.
"They feel sometimes forgotten. Their lives matter to God and, what we want is to be able to make disciples and develop sustainability," Valerio said. "People come for 3 days then they leave. They did a great job. But if they don't work toward sustainability, what we create are dependencies. So that's why it's important that we come back and teach the locals how to develop and how to follow up."
During the week of June 15, churches from across Texas came together to help TBDR and the recovering families in Eagle Pass. One hundred volunteers were a part of the mission work done, with volunteers from every age group.
Each group received a project assignment for the day and worked together to achieve that goal. Yards were mown, a wheelchair ramp was built outside the home of an older man, drywall was put up, electrical work was done and countless repair to damaged homes was made.
"I hope it's more than we clean up their yard," Dan Upchurch, a member of Parkway Baptist Church in College Station said. "Ultimately, the community needs to be sustained, God's love needs to be continued long-term and the idea of peace returning to the community is really what the goal should be."
While a trip to return to Maverick County isn't planned yet, there is still the opportunity to grow in Eagle Pass.
"There is such need in Eagle Pass. Families are poor and homes need repair," Marla Bearden, Disaster Recovery specialist for Texas Baptists said. "For many the needs are so abundant they don't know where to start. Mission Border Hope gives them a starting place, and hope for a better life. Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery mobilizes volunteers to be the hands and feet of Jesus, rebuilding communities and restoring lives, sharing the love of Christ along the way."
For more information about Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery, click here.
Olivia Williams, a journalism student from Baylor, is currently serving as a joint Communications Intern for both the Baptist Standard and the Texas Baptists.