Anna Sovereign: Helping in Houston
NEWBERG, ORE. - “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” Anna Sovereign, a sophomore political science major at George Fox University (GFU), said, citing Mark Twain in reference to her recent trip to Houston to help with hurricane relief.
Her eight-person team worked in East Houston in a city called Dixon. Ekklesia, their host church, sent them to various houses to gut out any furniture, carpet and insulation that was submerged by the flood waters. This work was done to dry out the houses and prepare them for contracters.
Sovereign was at a church service when she heard the announcement for the trip and said she felt a “tug on her heart.” After Sovereign applied and was accepted on the team, she had two days to fundraise in order to be able to go, and a week to prepare before they took off.
“You couldn’t set a ‘one size fits all’ preparation on every team, and have it work,” Sovereign said of the training. “I think I was prepared in the sense of our posture, and how we were interacting with people, but once we got down there, we figured it out as we went along,” she said.
The team was encouraged to fill the emotional and spiritual needs of the people they were serving in addition to physical service. If they felt they were supposed to pray for someone - that took priority.
Sovereign said the city felt like it was at a standstill with people gradually trying to return to their normal lives. There was debris left on lawns and a water line left on the houses and trees was eight feet high in some places. Many people had to throw out everything touched by the contaminated waters.
One house the team worked at belonged to the McGees family who affected Sovereign the most. The McGees were a low-income African-American family of three living in a house that Sovereign said “felt like it was in the third world.”
One impactful aspect of the trip was witnessing the racial segregation in that region of the country. Having grown up in Oregon, Sovereign had never met people so blatantly impacted by racism.
One member of the McGee family said to the team, “I’ve lived with white people my whole life, went to school, work and church with them, but I’ve never felt loved like this from a white person.” Sovereign said “It tore my heart in two.”
Sovereign accompanied her team as taking on the mission of showing Jesus’ love to people who were hurting. While working on the house, they would stop to gather, pray, and sing with the McGees family. “I didn’t want to fall in that category of just perpetually talking about a problem. I wanted to go and do something about it.” Sovereign said.
Houston will be recovering from Hurricane Harvey for years. Sovereign urged students to consider going to Houston to serve, even if it is this summer or during breaks.One resource for students who feel the call to serve in Houston is an organization called Hear the Cry sends teams to help with relief.
For students who are not able to go to these disaster-stricken places, Sovereign said, “We can give of our time to make the community we find ourselves in—far from home or right on our doorstep—brighter by sharing the wall-smashing hope of the love of Jesus. That's what service is about, that's what Jesus is about.”
Reported by Emma Lindberg
Photographed by Coleman Weimer