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Episcopal Camp Allen flooded, 30 people trapped with three days of food

Episcopal Camp Allen flooded, 30 people trapped with three days of food
Cursillo-252 caught by Hurricane Harvey

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
August 28, 2017

NAVASOTA, TEXAS -- Hurricane Harvey is not only causing havoc in Houston as water continues to rise, forcing thousands from their homes to seek higher ground, it also threw a monkey wrench into the Diocese of Texas' Cursillo-252 over the weekend, trapping 30 people at Camp Allen on Sunday night with little food as the flood waters continue to inch closer.

Hurricane Harvey initially formed on Aug. 17 as a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles. It worked its way across the Caribbean Sea, passing between Cuba and South America and over the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico on Aug. 23, eventually landing in Bay of Campeche.

On Thursday (Aug. 24) two things happened. Cursillo started at Camp Allen and a weakened and disorganized Harvey decided to intensify in the bath-warm water of the Gulf of Mexico and zero in on the south Texas coast with 130 mph winds. By Thursday evening, feeder band clouds were starting to swirl and the first few drops of rain fell. That was just a hint of what was to come.

On Friday (Aug. 25) Harvey became a strong Category 4 hurricane and was bearing down on Rockport, Texas, 250 miles southwest of Camp Allen. Harvey is the first hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in 2008. At about 10 p.m., the hurricane slammed ashore and, being bookended by two high pressure systems, it stalled, slowly spinning its way toward Houston, bringing once-in-a-lifetime levels of drenching rain with it.

The outer feeder bands' counterclockwise circulation sucked up moisture from the warm Gulf and huge amounts of rain fell over Houston and inland points to the north and northwest of Texas' largest population center, including Grimes County where Camp Allen is located near Navasota.

Camp Allen is 60 miles from the heart of Houston, where upwards of 18 inches of rain fell on Sunday. Huntsville (where this reporter lives) received 10 inches of rain and Camp Allen got at least eight. Heavy rain is not expected to let up until Wednesday (Aug. 30) at the earliest.

Early on Sunday (Aug. 27), Camp Allen was flooded and all roads leading in and out of the Episcopal conference center were underwater and impassable, trapping those attending Cursillo with only enough food for three days (90 meals) for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Late Sunday night, the camp still had power, but the Cursilloers were weary. Some had homes flooding in the Houston area and they could not get out. All anyone could so was pray, wait, watch and pray some more as the flood waters rose and hopefully receded.

Cursillo-252 was meeting at Camp Allen's Lakeside Meeting Center, an intimate 2,300-square foot facility with large picture windows overlooking Camp Allen's 70-acre Lake Coffield.

Camp Allen's website describes the meeting hall as: "... a picturesque venue, complete with modern amenities."

By Sunday night, Lake Coffield and the smaller Lake Goddard had overflowed their banks, flooding Camp Allen Road which snakes around the wooded retreat facility, trapping the Cursilloers and preventing them from leaving.

By Sunday afternoon, the Diocese of Texas' Cursillo website posted this announcement: "Dear friends in Christ ... DO NOT COME TO CAMP ALLEN TODAY (SUNDAY) FOR CLAUSURA OR TO PICK UP YOUR PILGRIMS!"

The blog post continued: "Cursillo #252 is continuing with the program in the Lakeside Meeting Center (LMC) at Camp Allen. Roads into Camp Allen and the roads to the LMC are essentially impassable, if not closed due to high water."

The Diocese of Texas' Cursillo website theorized: "We are CERTAIN this will be the BEST CURSILLO EVER - if not the longest one ... and we're reminded that God called us together for this weekend, and is with us."

The Rev. Nan Doerr was one of three Episcopal priests who are part of the 18-member Cursillo-252 team.

She was taking the flooding in stride and trusting God and His Providence as they sheltered-in-place.

The priest noted that there was no reason to panic, since the group had just experienced an "intense" Cursillo and they had "electricity, beds, a roof over their heads, water and food for three days."

"We are safe and not in any danger, but we will be sheltering-in-place, Christians in Community for awhile," Sunday's Cursillo blog post explained. "As this is a constantly evolving situation, we will keep you up-to-date as the situation changes. Let us unite in prayer for those in distress and need."

Mother Doerr also noted that they also had enough Eucharist elements -- bread and wine -- to celebrate Holy Communion twice.

The Episcopal priest also explained that Bishop Jeff Fisher (Texas-suffragan) had been in cell phone contact with them, asking if they needed anything and promising he would do anything he could to help them.

"How can he do anything to help if he can't get here?" Mother Doerr mused.

During the early morning hours of Monday (Aug. 28), another two inches of rain fell in Navasota, six inches less than what fell during the day Sunday, allowing some of the deep flood waters to recede. When dawn came Monday, rural farm-to-market roads leading to and from Camp Allen were again becoming passable. Camp Allen is at 18800 Farm Road 362.

Slowly, the Cursilloers started to leave and head home, some not knowing how dry their houses would be when they got there ... if they can even get there as many roads are still flooding and impassible. Currently, Houston television stations are giving 24-hour hurricane coverage.

However, due to the continued nature of the unfolding catastrophic flooding in Houston and the southern parts of the Texas diocese, a preplanned Episcopal Diocese of Texas Executive Team Retreat, slated to start Tuesday (Aug. 29),is expected to be put on hold so that the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas can focus its full attention on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline


Hurricane Harvey and our Mission

By Bishop Andrew Doyle
August 28, 2017

Let me begin by thanking all of our brothers and sisters around the world who are holding us up in prayer. We are grateful for the hope you lend us at this time of disaster and fear.

We have been in touch with many people and know that the disaster stretches across the whole southern part of our diocese. We expect the area to grow as the slow moving storm progresses across the state.

We are following the guidance of our officials and hunkering down in order to remain safe while they focus on those in the most immediate danger. Please pray for many clergy and laity who have water in their home. Pray also for those who need rescuing and are even now being rescued. We have a number of first responders and they also need our prayers as they are leaving loved ones to help with rescue operations.

We want to emphasize that we need to wait until the danger has passed to make our response so as not to complicated further the ongoing rescue operations.

Our plan for response includes the following:

We are in a standby mode until the storm passes.
We have had an effective test of our Alertmedia, our app for communicating with heads of congregations and staff in emergencies.
We have been in touch with many of our clergy families in the affected areas and heard from them about their situations. This afternoon we will use Alertmedia to gather more information.
Once the storm and danger has passed we will begin planning deployment of our Spiritual Care teams to affected areas.
We will are now and will continue to assess area damage as we get information from multiple sources and evaluate ways we can make an affective response.
An overall strategy will be developed and a coordinated response will be managed collaboratively working with our congregations. We will then implement a strategy and coordinate with resources.
As I write these words, I am very present to the sadness, fear, uncertainty, and grief that fill our minds and hearts in the wake of hurricane and tropical storm Harvey. Coastal towns along the Texas Gulf have been destroyed, and catastrophic flooding has left much of Houston underwater. Truly this storm has brought all of us to our knees, and our only recourse is to join King David in his plea for mercy: "Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck" (Psalm 69:1).

Two of the most powerful images in Scripture have Jesus Christ exercising authority over the sea. Jesus commands the stormy sea to be calm: "Who is this?" The disciples ask. "For even the winds and the sea obey him" (Matt 8:26). In a different passage, Jesus walks on the sea (Matt 14:26). The point being made by the Biblical author is clear: namely, that God's power to save, renew, heal, and restore is infinitely greater than the sea's power to destroy. The God we know in Jesus Christ forever sits "enthroned amidst the flood" (Psalm 29:10).

It is with this hope that we wait for healing together and, in concert with our Baptismal vows, we pledge to be conduits through whom God brings healing and renewal to others. We also commit to allowing other human beings to be vessels through whom God brings healing and renewal to us, for receiving is always its own kind of courage.

We do not know the future of Harvey or the city of Houston. But as Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt 24:35). "I will never leave you," says our Lord standing on the waves. "Never will I forsake you" (Heb 13:5).

My prayers, the prayers of your diocesan staff, and or global family are with you. Jesus is with you. Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City where the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Sustain those displaced by the storm with food, drink, and all other bodily necessities of life. We especially remember before you all poor and neglected persons it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D. is the Episcopal Bishop of Texas

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