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Houston church becomes ‘ark’ for stranded family, animals

 


Houston church becomes ‘ark’ for stranded family, animals

Sept. 30, 2005

By Cynthia Harvey*

HOUSTON (UMNS) — Members of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church had begun to breathe a sigh of relief as Hurricane Rita made a turn to the east.

Little did they know their church in far west Houston would soon be called upon to become an “ark.”

When Kenneth and Cora Price made the decision to evacuate their Rosharon home on Sept. 21 and head to Brenham, they knew it would take several hours. With thousands of others, they were under a mandatory evacuation order for parts of the Texas Gulf Coast. What the Prices didn’t realize was that after three days, they would still not be in Brenham, a trip that would take two hours on a normal day.

Complicating the trip was the load they were carrying. Along for the ride were the Prices’ five children, ranging in age from 9 to18; five goats; two cows; three dogs and about 50 chickens. The Prices own Sweet Pea Farms in Rosharon, and their children raise many of these farm animals in their local 4-H Club.

After more than seven hours on the road, the family was only about halfway to Brenham and low on gas. They stopped to look for gas but had no luck. They were stranded.

With no other choice, the Prices knew they had to let the animals out of the trailer. A shopping center parking lot became a makeshift petting zoo.

Word spread quickly in the community, and several members of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church went to offer help.

“The church was wonderful,” Cora Price said.

“The last thing people want is animals in their parking lot,” she said. “Dogs are one thing, but having an 800-pound cow is different.” Church members put the animals on their soccer field and “didn’t mind them eating the grass.”

The family found the church was a place where they “were received with love and comfort.”

The congregation and church staff have become experienced at helping those in need. Since Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana Aug. 29, church members have assisted thousands of families by serving hot meals, helping them find jobs and housing, and providing essential household items. Helping the family with the farm animals just seemed natural.

The church’s youth director, Steve Cragg, and his family were able to get enough gas to move the family to the church parking lot, where the animals were unloaded. A Sunday school classroom became a shelter for the human members of the Price family as everyone braced for Hurricane Rita.

After spending so much time in the trailers, Price said the animals “were depressed.” Church members responded to that need by bringing in their children to pet the animals.

After the storm passed Sept. 24, the family loaded up and headed back to Rosharon. This time the trip only took 30 minutes. Once they got back home, they found they had no power or water and began to think they should have stayed put at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church.

“I firmly believe God is not going to leave us short, and he did not,” Price said. “He put those people there (at Memorial Drive Church) to take care of it.”

During their evacuation, Price was concerned about one of her sons who has cystic fibrosis and had no place to plug in a necessary machine. They were able to eventually do that at the church.

The son, who is adopted, also learned that his biological sister and other family members died during the evacuation. There are 17 children in his biological family. A brother remains in intensive care following a high fever that developed during evacuation.

Normally, Price said, she is the one who cares for people. “But this time, I was on the other side. I had nothing. I was the one in need, and the Methodists helped us get through it.”

*Harvey is pastor of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Houston.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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