Relying on faith amid Harvey's destruction

Story highlights

  • People in area hit by storm gather in church for a National Day of Prayer
  • Those of all faiths show the "face of humanity" with donations

(CNN)Patricia Holloway hovered over her 15-year-old triplets crouched in the closet and prayed as the wind whistled and a tornado ripped shingles off the roof.

Holloway's sister, who had also squeezed into the closet, recited Psalm 91, a Psalm of protection.
A third sibling called as Hurricane Harvey whipped the trees around Holloway's Cypress, Texas, home, northwest of Houston, more than a week ago.
    "Pray, pray now," Holloway told her sister on the phone. Holloway, 52, said last week she credited the prayers and her faith with calming her.
    "That's my leaning post," she said, referring to God. "That's what I do automatically. I'm just going to pray."
    Christians, Jews and Muslims have leaned on their faith as the storm flooded southeast Texas. Faith has guided them as they recover and encouraged them to give to those suffering in the aftermath of a storm that has killed at least 53 people. Here in the Bible Belt, prayer and church are a part of life.
    Houses of worship collected donations and served as shelters. And faithful strangers began helping with the rebuilding process.
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    Many survivors attended church on Sunday for the first time since Harvey's landfall. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump had declared Sunday a day of prayer.
    "We know that you, our God, that you are our refuge and our strength," Abbott said, reading from the Bible during a service at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin.

    'God's got my back'

    Darrin LeRoy also turned to prayer on the weekend when Harvey made landfall.
    "I was praying the whole time in my head, protect my family, get us there, give me strength," he said.
    Darrin LeRoy worshipping Sunday at Lakewood Church in Texas
    The water was already at his door when his wife woke him before dawn. The family of five was trapped.
    LeRoy called neighbors for help. A couple with a two-story home down the street offered shelter. The LeRoys just had to make it there.
    Twenty minutes later, they reached the neighbors' home, after wading through chest-high water.
    "God's got my back," said LeRoy, who attended a service at Lakewood Church.
    His pastor, Joel Osteen, who was recently criticized for not immediately welcoming evacuees into his megachurch, raised his fist in the air before the service.
    "We made it through Harvey. We're here alive, we're here healthy, we're here strong," Osteen said.
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    'Greater good of humanity'

    At Holloway's church, First Church Heights, the Rev. C. David Harrison preached that Christ is in control and sufficient in all storms.
    "During the storm, God used other people to be gracious to those who couldn't do for themselves," he said after the service in Houston.
    Harrison himself saw that grace.
    Houston police evacuated Harrison's family as Harvey flooded their home. The family is staying with Harrison's brother in Spring, Texas.
    Harrison's church helped send boxes of food, water and supplies to storm-affected regions like Beaumont, Texas.
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    "If I didn't have faith at this time, there is no way I would be standing, moving and trying to help people," Harrison said.
    He added: "I would be concerned about my home, my children and my life. I wouldn't be concerned about the greater good of humanity."

    'Showed people the face of humanity'

    At least four mosques, affiliated with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, served as shelters in Harvey's aftermath.
    The Islamic Society used social media, radio stations and interfaith outreach to spread the word that the mosques were open for shelter and seeking donations.
    Shaizad Chatriwala, whose mosque, Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, Texas, served as a shelter, said Muslims and non-Muslims "showed people the face of humanity."
    On Friday, more than 5,000 Muslims gathered at a Houston area high school for prayers at the start of Eid al-Adha, one of Islam's revered observances, after flooding in the area closed one mosque.
    Muslims celebrate the Adha, the Arabic word for "sacrifice," by slaughtering sheep and giving the meat to the poor. They also are required to give to charities for the less fortunate. Many Muslims also visit friends and family, exchange gifts and take part in feasts.
    "This year, people decided rather than having big parties, we will donate this money for people who have been affected by the flood," Chatriwala said.
    Evacuees eat at the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, Texas, which served as a Hurricane Harvey shelter.

    A healing service

    Also on Friday, members of Congregation Beth Israel in Houston gathered for Sabbath services in a smaller sanctuary after the storm flooded the main sanctuary. The storm also damaged the ventilation and plumbing systems, said David Scott, the congregation's executive director.
    Rabbi David Lyon told the congregation, "Our prayers and songs help us to acknowledge that in God's presence we can find what we need" during challenges.
    "But I can say with great authority, and in good company, that all of us have had challenges this week," he said, according to a video of the service on Facebook.
    "It's in this place to which we would turn ... and define exactly what we need," he said.
    Scott said the service was a moment of healing.
    "It was very emotional because a lot of people who were in the room had suffered major flooding," Scott said.
    The congregation hopes to be ready for the High Holy Days, starting with Rosh Hashanah on September 20 and ending with Yom Kippur on September 30.
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    'God just cover them'

    Holloway's husband, Steven, thought of his family as he took cover in a closet of a nearby tire store as the tornado approached.
    He was calm because he had been through storms before, he said. "I believed that God was going to bring us through. He's done it before."
    Steven Holloway, 54, jumped into his car and raced home in the rain as the skies darkened.
    "God, just cover them 'til I get home," he said he prayed.
    He, too, recited Psalm 91. Decades ago, his late grandmother told him he should read the scripture.
    "Later on down the line, you're going to need that," he recalled her saying.
    Holloway saw shingles scattered on the ground when he approached his home. His family had gathered in the driveway.
    The wind had ripped apart a wooden fence in his backyard, and only the gate was standing. It was slightly open.
    "I just said, 'Well God, you left the door open for us. And it just reminds me of your goodness and your grace,' " Holloway said.
    "The way it came through here, it should have torn up my house. And my family, I don't like saying this, they could have been killed," he said.