As an architect, I build things – well…actually I design things – beautiful things. They get built – beautiful things get built.
This month, something changed me, a city named Houston TX. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I’m not sure how to even speak – not for lacking of words to share my story, I’m just having a hard time speaking knowing so many live in the midst of tragedy – and many don’t even complain.
The story is overdue as I’ve wrestled with sharing, not wanting accolades, but aiming to convince others around me that my mind was blown, and my heart was transformed by how homes are being restored, lives are being renewed in the midst of a storm – a life wrecking, seventeen-feet-deep bayou swelling, overflowing havoc-causing storm, oddly named…Harvey.
Despite my focus on architecture, I won’t hide my faith as it is integral to my story – I follow Jesus, and I followed Him to Houston. I credit God for good things being done. Why would He need someone like me, a nutty, idealistic architect to be His hands? Today I heard an old, favorite song that opened my mind for how to share my story of why I went to Texas. I’ll use Nicole’s song to fill in the gaps.
I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me
and I enjoy an accolade like the rest
you could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
with all the who’s-who’s and so-and-so’s
That used to be the best at such and such,
it wouldn’t matter much.
Architects savor the rush from building things and we like to be recognized; call us fragile egoists. We stage awards and the prizes get bigger – some will find their names written in history books.
From 11 June through 15 June 2018 I was part of a team from Greensburg Alliance Church led by our youth pastor, adult leaders and 20 kids of our youth group on a mission’s trip to Houston Texas with the aim of assisting Trinity Fellowship Church, Reach Global and the EFCA with the mantle they’ve chosen to bear to aid people in their region to rebuild after the devastating hurricane that tried to drown this community on 28 August 2017. The storm extended from 25 August through 29 August 2017, but its effects are still lingering. Trinity FC and the Reach Global team hosts new teams weekly.
I won’t lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights,
We all need an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Atta girl’
But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world.
Why Texas? Why Hurricane Harvey? Why not somewhere else? I am not in charge of those decisions; I am not sovereign.
I want to leave a legacy,
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to you enough –
to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy.
Although I am not a leader in our church youth group (although my wife Amy is), our youth pastor asked me and a couple of other adults with construction ‘experience’ and with children in the group to join the team. I am relieved that I didn’t hesitate to say yes for once. My entire family went on this trip; that made it priceless.
Three vans, thirty people, two days down, two days back, others joined us down there. I am actually shaking my head at the whole thing.
As an architect and one who has done many construction projects over the years, I was confident that I could contribute. It seems something all architects could do – dare I say should do. Though it’s not time to be preachy; so many architects are finding what it means to be a ‘citizen architect’ without necessarily hammering a nail or painting a wall. However, I find it uncanny that out of the six houses our team divided up to serve, there was one that needed carpentry skills, where I felt most confident. I made sure our son was on my team. I passed on some of my Jedi wood-working skills to him…yeah.
Other teams did drywall hanging and finishing, painting, cabinetry and even some electrical work. Homeowners rejoiced over finally having a door to their bathroom. Ten months later, most of these homes are still working to hang drywall, finish and paint it. Think about trying to live this way. Living in the church for a week in a camp-like setting showed us the value of community – something that deserves a post to itself.
Despite the efforts to rebuild, many homeowners are living in RVs parked in their driveways, and some are still living in FEMA trailers outside their homes. The grass is ruined, and our homeowner told me she is still finding pieces of glass in their front yard. Imagine explaining to your children why they can’t play in their own yard yet. Imagine explaining to them why they can’t move back into their house, even though it’s just behind this temporary trailer?
I don’t have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
It’s an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such
Will soon enough destroy.
Jeff and Gloria, real names, real people, these are the homeowners my team served gladly for five days. I saw what real gratitude looks like. There are five other teams, with five other sets of names who were blessed by over thirty people. No one on our team left the same; we were the ones blessed.
Not well-traveled, not well-read
Not well-to-do, or well-bred.
Just want to hear instead,
Well done, good and faithful one’
I believe this is just the beginning. I am not in charge – I’ll await further instruction.
The work is not done yet.
I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me.
Legacy: Nichole Nordeman
Songwriter: James Newton Howard
Legacy lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group