Prayer impacts Houston

Texas student finds the significance of prayer through the devastating hurricane.


Photo Courtesy of Reagan Smalley

Jessica Goddard, Writer

Junior theatre major Reagan Smalley settled into her dorm and the schedule of her new semester, unaware of the coming hurricane soon to devastate her home city of Houston and its neighboring cities, washing homes from their foundations into utter demolition. Almost as soon as she heard the news, she thought, “What can I do to help?”

the priviledged calling to pray

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Smalley’s every instinct bade her to go home and aide her community, but since she could not leave, she had to recognize the importance and the privilege of her calling to pray.

“My mom grew up in a community where you just get in and help. And so that instinct is in me,” Smalley said. “I like to physically be there, but just something that God’s taught me is: ‘It’s not by your works that I am good, it’s because I’m good that your works are good.’”

Smalley’s mother and father, both pastors, have spent the last week actively searching out ways they can serve the victims of this tragedy, following their family’s culture of service. Conditioned nearly from birth to volunteer when others need aid, Smalley longed to do something, anything to bring relief. God gave her one solution: to pray. Her conviction soon combatted the helpless feelings of her initial reaction. With sudden strength, she understood the gravity of prayer with the God of the universe.

“The thought that ran through my head was ‘All I can do is pray,’ and I had to stop myself and be like, ‘No, that’s not a negative thing,’” Smalley said. “All I can do is pray. Oh, all I can do is communicate with an eternal, perfect, wonderful God and plead for him to help my family. Like, oh, that’s all I can do.”

However, she realized prayer did not have to remain a solo mission as she scrolled through her parents’ list of people affected by the hurricane. On yellow sticky notes, she wrote down the names of different contacts and the specific prayer requests pertaining to them and placed them on the outside of her dorm room door for her floormates to pick up.

“I go to a Christian university. There are so many girls that would love to pray, that are maybe even looking to pray for Harvey,” Smalley said. “And I love to pray for specific people and for specific things because it just helps me keep my thoughts straight.”

As Smalley ministered by spreading prayer throughout campus, her mother gathered over 1,500 meals to distribute, and her parents have offered up their home to those in need of a place to stay. Her mother also spent a day helping strangers rip out their carpet after the storm.

through tragedy and through hardship

While her own home had no impact from the torrential flooding, the river near her home church, WoodsEdge Community Church, overflowed causing severe damage to all of the church’s portable buildings and its brand new office space. The leaders of the church felt discouraged by the loss, yet they also felt God’s blessing by the over 200 people who came to help repair it.

Though many people feel this tragedy depicts the brokenness in our country, Smalley sees it as vehicle of hope and unity. She believes that God continues to fill Houston with his presence and goodness by providing resources and community.

“One of the main ways that God works is through tragedy and is through hardship,” Smalley said. “People respond to bad things that are happening, and people respond to tragedy.”

Not only have her parents and church seen members of the body of Christ rise up, but the state of Texas as a whole has also seen a remarkable amount of people willing to give exceptional amounts of time and resources to the rebuilding of Houston. Though the damages may require significant time and money to repair, the people’s morales have already begun to rise as the state unifies in solidarity, according to Smalley.

“The areas that are being affected, we’re just offering our aid and offering our service, which is really just kind of the Texas way. I feel like we’re going to come out stronger than before,” Smalley said.

Though the tragedy of this storm will not easily fade, Smalley remains grateful for the lessons she has learned through this experience about prayer, serving God’s people and the power of a caring community.

“God taught me that he is foundation to everything, that I cannot change what happened to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, that my physical presence is not as impactful as his presence there,” Smalley said. “It wasn’t about the volunteering that I was doing, the carpet I was ripping up or whatever. It was only about what I was praying and what I was asking God for… Prayer is not the least you can do. Prayer is actually probably the most you can do.”

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