Mission is a way of life in Adventist education. In November, 42 Glendale Adventist Academy (GAA) students and five sponsors made their way to Houston, Texas, to serve the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Ben Garcia, GAA religion teacher, contacted any local church that would guide the students to serve in the Houston area. The answer came from Leaquim Caitano, associate pastor, and Angel Rodriguez, senior pastor, of Houston Central church. GAA students were housed by the church and supplied with a kitchen, transportation, and all the contacts they needed to serve in the community. An L.A. Fitness near the Houston church allowed the group access to showers.
Initially, the goal was to aid Oaks Adventist Academy; however, plans were changed once the decision was made to keep the school closed. When GAA students were asked to assist community members instead, groups spread out among six different homes during two days, with multiple odd jobs needing to be done in each home. Four of those homes were owned by people the church came across as they provided aid after the hurricane. “Many of the homeowners who were affected during the hurricane were able to pick up the pieces, but there are some residents who didn’t have insurance or are still waiting for their insurance to come through,” Garcia said. Two months after the hurricane, homeowners faced a long list of desperate needs: cleaning the massive debris from their homes, demolishing and gutting their drywall, cleaning heavy mold, painting walls and ceilings, and setting up new sheet rock.
The students immediately faced a steep learning curve as they hung sheet rock and carefully demolished walls in residents’ homes. They risked getting sick from dust, mold, humidity, and mosquitos, but their concern for the suffering residents motivated them to help where they were needed most. “There are so many people who are still affected, and the work needed to get done,” commented GAA senior Rachel. “So, we did it.”
In addition to their work in the community, the church’s family life center offered a food pantry where students packed food and served low-income residents. Students were also recruited to serve in the church’s worship on Sabbath as musicians and praise song leaders.
As a result, the GAA students alleviated the work and pressure for residents in the Houston area. This is the fourth domestic mission trip GAA has taken in five years since a chaplain joined GAA’s staff. The school’s support for local aid and network that their chaplain creates demonstrate how our local communities come to each other’s rescue.