How Texas Latter-day Saints are caring for storm-afflicted neighbors, even amid their own challenges

Just two months ago, the Church News spoke with Elder Art Rascon, an Area Seventy, about the many lessons Latter-day Saints living along the U.S. Gulf Coast learned during the historic 2020 hurricane seasons.

Looking to Christ, he said at the time, helps people “understand that He will allow us to make it through the storm.”

In recent weeks, that “understanding” has deepened for Elder Rascon and thousands of other Latter-day Saints living in Texas and neighboring regions.

On a personal level, Elder Rascon has battled a frightening case of COVID-19, resulting in a short hospital stay and a recovery continuing to this day. 

As an ecclesiastical leader, he’s once again helping members and their neighbors cope with a historic weather crisis affecting large regions of Texas and beyond. 

Perilous winter storms and intense cold swept through much of the United States last week. More than 70 deaths have been linked to the disaster — with about half the fatalities occurring in Texas, USA Today reported.

“What a difficult week it was for millions of residents and tens of thousands of Saints,” wrote Elder Rascon, a veteran television journalist, in an email to the Church News. “It was another historic and unprecedented disaster for this area.”

He counted off the challenges facing legions of members and their neighbors: Frozen and broken pipes. Flooded homes. Millions left in the dark without power and shivering to keep warm with temperatures in the single digits in Houston.

“It’s simply unheard of here,” he said.

 In this Feb. 19, 2021, photo, water is loaded into cars at a City of Houston water distribution site in Houston. The drive-thru stadium location was setup to provide bottled water to individuals who need water while the city remains on a boil water notice or because they lack water at home due to frozen or broken pipes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
In this Feb. 19, 2021, photo, water is loaded into cars at a City of Houston water distribution site in Houston. The drive-thru stadium location was setup to provide bottled water to individuals who need water while the city remains on a boil water notice or because they lack water at home due to frozen or broken pipes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) Credit: AP

Despite enduring weather-related difficulties of their own, Latter-day Saints in affected areas are responding just as they did during last year’s string of destructive hurricanes.

“Members immediately jumped into action, rushing to homes that were flooded to muck out the mess,” Elder Rascon reported. “Youth groups went door-to-door in some neighborhoods and rescued so many people from their misery of having another flooded home.

“As you know, we are used to cleaning out flooded homes here.”

Inundated homes are not the only issues facing many in Elder Rascon’s area. Power outages resulted in shortages of food, gasoline and water. Residents were forced to wait in long lines outside grocery stores. Fast-food restaurants witnessed streams of cars stretching up to a mile and a half long.

In a recent story, the Church News posted an amateur video of a Latter-day Saint in Houston filling jugs of water from his apartment swimming pool to be boiled and used for bathing and filling toilets.

“But through it all, the Church, as always, sent several semitractor truckloads of supplies, which we have distributed to several community relief organizations throughout Houston and the surrounding communities,” wrote Elder Rascon. “Every time there is a disaster these organizations get on the phone and call us personally, asking what we can do to help. We never deny the opportunity to give, donate, lift, help and bring relief to the community organizations that so desperately are in need.

Volunteers hand out food and water at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through food distribution site held at Rackspace Technology, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Volunteers hand out food and water at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through food distribution site held at Rackspace Technology, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Credit: AP

“And what is so miraculous, as well, is to watch many youth organizations quickly jump into action at the variety of distribution sites around town.”

Elder Rascon added he is again amazed at the Christ-centered love Latter-day Saints are sharing with one another and their neighbors even as they manage their own challenges.

“So many Saints with busted pipes and flooded homes turned to their neighbors to help before cleaning up their mess.”

Others fortunate enough to have fireplaces in their homes invited groups and families into their homes as temperatures dropped in the Houston area.

“The entire week, as difficult as it was, was also another example of how members shine as lights of service to each other and to their neighbors,” he wrote. “It was an example of how communities pull together in moving ways.”

Elder Rascon added he is grateful for “tender mercies” during his own ongoing COVID-19 struggle. He no longer requires oxygen assistance and was back at the television station last week covering the Texas weather disaster.

“I have witnessed a miraculous recovery over the past few weeks,” he wrote. “Every week there is improved stamina and energy. I have returned to my stake conference assignments and although I am far from 100%, I have felt an abundance of the Lord’s blessings and can feel of His love and continued healing power.”