A work crew wearing yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts labored to strip the sheet rock from a flooded home in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 17. The workers were dirty, tired and soaking wet from their exertions in Texas’ heat and humidity, recalled Elder M. Russell Ballard, who traveled to Houston with Elder Ronald A. Rasband and other Church leaders.
Sitting on a chair to the side of the home was an elderly man. Elder Ballard took the man’s hand and told him, “I’m one of the apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are our people, and we want you to know we love you. And we’re here because Jesus Christ would want us to be here.”
In talking with the man, Elder Ballard discovered he was 80-years old. To which the 89-year-old apostle quipped, “Then you’re just a boy.”
The man told Elder Ballard that his wife had died two and a half months before his home was decimated by the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey. “And your angels have come to rescue me,” the man said.
As Elder Ballard pushed deeper into the home, he found people on their hands and knees tearing out sheet rock and ripping up floors.
“I’ll tell you this,” Elder Ballard said, “what a Church we belong to. This is what Church people ought to do.”
That was one of many “tender moments” experienced by Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as they offered encouragement to hundreds of Mormon Helping Hands volunteers who continue to help residents impacted by the hurricane. They were joined by Elder Juan A. Uceda of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder J. Devn Cornish and Elder S. Gifford Nielson, General Authority Seventies; Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor in the Primary general presidency; and other area leaders.
Elder Rasband had the opportunity to visit the communities of Beaumont-Port Arthur, Vidor, and Port Neches. He said, “As I visited and witnessed the complete devastation of homes and communities, my heart was saddened for those who had lost so much. I was humbled and so grateful to watch the united efforts of missionaries and members — some who had come great distances to help in the clean-up efforts.”
Elder Rasband told those he visited, “We love you, we are praying for you, and are so grateful to you for sharing your time and energies to come and help these precious folks whose lives have been torn apart by the storm.”
The Church leaders spoke at early morning worship services in capacity-filled chapels awash in bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts. After the meetings, hundreds of volunteers, including Latter-day Saint missionaries, left to serve their neighbors in clean-up efforts.
Elder Ballard said they met with many missionaries wearing their nametags on their work clothes “having the time of their lives because they knew they were doing the work of the Lord.”
The Church leaders also met with various religious leaders, thanking them for what they were doing to help rescue the people who had lost all their worldly possessions. Among them was Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston, who asked Elder Ballard to offer a prayer.
During the hurricane evacuations, some residents took refuge in a furniture store showroom, a move that garnered national media attention. The Church leaders made an impromptu stop to meet the owner, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who Elder Ballard described as “a man of God.” McIngvale opened his warehouses, stores and showrooms as emergency shelters for evacuees and Texas Army National Guard troops.