Two weeks ago Hurricane Harvey dissipated from the borders of Texas, but it left the city of Houston flooded and some homes under more than four feet of water. The Oklahoma Christian University baseball team took a trip to volunteer in the relief efforts from Sept 15 to 17.
“I have all these boys that can go and help,” baseball head coach Lonny Cobble said. “You take 40 guys and you work 8 hours. That’s a lot of man hours. That’s kind of just looking at it and saying it’s time we do something.”
When Cobble announced the idea to the team, senior Hayden Strobel said he was pumped to be given an opportunity to give back to the community through direct service.
“One person that I love is Ray Lewis and Ray Lewis talks about how money can only do so much, Strobel said. “Money and water and stuff helps but he says what really helps an area is putting yourself in there and doing things that actually influence people. I always think ‘how can I directly impact Houston?’. Sending money is one thing, sending water is another thing, but when he told us ‘hey we’re trying to get guys to go down to Houston’. I was pumped and jumped on the gun to go.”
After deciding action was necessary, Cobble contacted the manager of the Houston Astros to get connected with the relief operations. The Astros manager connected Cobble to the Houston First Baptist Church, which was organizing the volunteers throughout the city.
Local businesses such as Home Depot and Lowes provided discount prices and donated cleaning supplies for the effort. Cobble’s home congregation, New Hope Church of Christ in Edmond, also contributed items for the trip.
“A lot of parents brought stuff for us to take,” Cobble said. “We had a lot of the baseball alumni donate money to pay for our trip. I was just overwhelmed with the way the community reached out.”
The baseball team took 35 players to assist in hurricane clean-up. They split up into three teams and worked to gut houses in the 5th Ward District of Houston, a historically impoverished neighborhood northeast of downtown.
“The group that I was in stayed at the same house all day long where an elderly lady, who I would say is probably in her 70s maybe 80s, lived with another family member,” Strobel said. “It would have taken them a month to clean out what we did. We tore out the walls. There were closets that we completely took out. There was a shed out in the back that we completely gutted. They didn’t keep anything, maybe some pictures hanging on the wall because the water didn’t get that high. This lady lost everything.”
Sophomore Cesar Arcizo-Garcia, whose family was affected by the hurricane in Houston, felt a sense of pride to be able to assist his city and home.
“Volunteering meant a lot to me, especially because I live there,” Arcizo-Garcia said. “I was very prideful for my city. I felt like I was really helping out my city and it felt really good. I was also timid because I wasn’t ready to see the damages in Houston.”
According to Strobel, the experience strengthened his faith through witnessing the destruction and interacting with the residents of Houston.
“You would think being put into that position there would be a lot of whys and blaming God but no, these people prayed for us,” Strobel said. “At the end, they thanked us, but most importantly they thanked the Lord for being put in that situation and for being able to bounce back. Their faith improved my faith. You take a situation like that and now I can look at my life and no matter what I go through I know I can get through it. I know I have God and I know I am being put in this situation for some reason and I have all the faith in the world in God and in what direction he’s sending me.”
For Arcizo-Garcia, aiding in the clean-up throughout Houston put life into perspective.
“I think a lot of guys came together and we realized that ‘hey this isn’t just about baseball’,” Arcizo-Garcia said. “We’re making an impact for our state and our country as a whole.”