God's Provision: From Ohio to Houston, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, October 12, 2017 0 comments

by Steve Risner

After some time to rest and reflect, I thought it would be nice to write a blog post about the trip my wife Michelle and I took to Houston, TX. If you follow the Worldview Warriors Facebook page (which you should if you don’t already), you would have seen about a month ago that Michelle and I responded to the call to take supplies down to Houston following the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. I'll share the whole story.

Michelle's brother Jono and his wife April felt led to take a truck and trailer full of supplies down to Texas for disaster relief. He and his wife were going to stay for a few days to help in whatever way they could before returning to Ohio. In the process of collecting supplies—food, water, cleaning supplies, etc.—they acquired more they they could take. This led them to believe they needed to turn people away if they wanted to donate. This is where Michelle and I came into the picture. Hearing this, we felt strongly that God was asking us, “Why can't you take the rest?”

You see, one of my passions is helping. It's just the way God made me. I love giving a hand, providing some help or finances, letting someone use a machine or tool I have, etc.. Whenever I would hear of these events like Harvey or when Joplin, MO was hit by a gigantic tornado and those sorts of things, I feel like we should act. As followers of Christ and, quite frankly, as decent people, we should be moved by such things and try to help if possible. But anytime the need seemed to arise, it was difficult to find others who were willing and able to participate. And, truthfully, with owning our own business and having a family of 7 to deal with, it was easy to find excuses for not getting involved. We might send a donation here or there, but we rarely got our hands dirty so to speak. Honestly, it never occurred to me to act on my own until my brother-in-law jumped at the chance. I appreciate him for that. Sometimes we need to be shown something before we realize it's possible.

Jono was having some issues with the ministry he had chosen to contact to help with (understandably, they are very large, heavy with red tape, and were in the middle of a crisis). I have a friend in Houston that I was sure would have some contacts or at least an idea of where Jono could find direction. Dr. Ramirez got us in touch with Pastor Kellen at the Worship Center in north Houston. This was a terrific blessing and made the job of connecting down there much easier. Eventually, my brother-in-law did get word from Samaritan's Purse and he did do some clean-up work with them.

So Michelle and I announced fairly sluggishly on Thursday, August 31st that we, too, would be making a trip down to Houston to provide supplies. We didn't mention it to many people until the following Tuesday when everything broke loose. Let me explain: I stood up in a Business Network International (BNI) group I'm involved in—Flag City BNI—and told them about our plans. This seemed pretty benign at the time. However, after hardly mentioning it to anyone else until Sunday at church, I received a message from a friend in this BNI group. On Tuesday, September 5th, Chase of Findlay Warehousing informed me that his company would like to donate a semi truck, 53' trailer, and driver for the trip! This was terrifying! What am I supposed to do with a semi truck? I thanked him and immediately got the wheels in my head turning. How am I supposed to fill up a 53' trailer? In my mind, I had already determined it was not possible and told Chase we may just need to use a box truck if that was available. But we moved on.

That day, a very nice woman I know stopped in my office. I hadn't seen her for a few weeks as was her custom. But she stopped in and I just happened to mention what had transpired earlier that day. It turns out Patty knows everyone within a 50-mile radius (or so it seemed) and immediately started in with, “Have you talked to this organization? I'm good friends with the president. What about this company? I know their CEO. How about this radio station? I know the guy in charge over there really well.” And thus a firestorm began.

Michelle and I had placed a video on Facebook on Labor Day. Within 24 hours, that video was shared about 70 times and clicked on some 2500 times! It was unbelievable and I thank everyone who participated in that. However, it seemed like that was the end of the enthusiasm. After all of that, still no donations were coming in. I was concerned.

I contacted the United Way here in Findlay, OH, to see if they had some help they could provide. They could not. They were trying to fill their own two semi trucks and, therefore, did not have any resources available. However, they advised us to take the truck to Tiffin, OH where, as far as they knew, there was no coordinated effort. I did just that. I contacted a friend, Lenny, who knows the mayor of Tiffin to see if he had a suggestion for getting in touch with him. He helped me out and Mayor Montz and I got connected. Patty, again, went to work and got us a place in the Tiffin Mall parking lot where Mayor Montz and I met for some pictures. He used those pictures on his social media to get the word out. That was picked up by WTOL, a local television station out of Toledo, OH. That helped in getting the word out, but to be honest, I believe the majority of the donation we accepted from Saturday, September 9th to Sunday, September 10th were by passers by who saw us. My children, Zeke and Judah, held large, bright yellow poster boards up saying, “Help us help Houston!” and “Help us fill this truck for Houston.” People responded. But the task was huge and I still was not sure. But by the time we finished in Tiffin on Sunday, after my parents and my aunt and uncle worked with me for about 6 hours, the truck was about two-thirds of the way full (though I believed the pros at the warehouse would likely get that packed a little tighter than we did).

I called a friend, a local business owner and pastor of a local church, and asked if he may be able to help. His response with very little hesitation was, “Would $5000 help you out?” Of course, I was shocked and very appreciative. That with all the other donations we received totaled over $7000! The bulk of that went through New Beginnings Assembly of God in Tiffin although some cash was used for the trip down and back. But this leads to my next big deal!

I was at the truck in Tiffin while donations came and decided, because I had the help of some wonderful people from our church—Don, Cathy, and Lisa—that I would run down to Lowe's and see if they would be willing to give a discount on any building materials for me. I had talked with Pastor Kellen and he gave me a short list of important items. I started my truck and saw someone pull in out of the corner of my eye. “Another person bringing a donation,” I thought. I waved and put my truck in gear before I realized I knew this person. So I put the truck back in park and got out. It was Josh, a friend of mine for nearly 20 years and of my wife's family for much longer than that. We got to talking and I told him I was heading down to Lowe's to see about getting a great deal. “Oh, I'm really good friends with the store manager down there. Let me go talk to them for you,” he said. That was a huge relief. He came back to tell me they'd help however they could! This was after the store employees had stopped by with about 30 flashlights, batteries, and about 50 pairs of work gloves, among other things.

I went down to find that Steve, the manager on duty, was an excellent guy. He gave me whatever I wanted at cost! So I decided to purchase 238 sheets of drywall, 588 2x4's, 4 wheelbarrows, 100 lbs of drywall screws, and 50 batts of insulation. In so doing, with their discount, I saved nearly $3000. Because of some confusion with the semi truck, I had to get a trailer to haul this stuff to Findlay Warehousing on my own. This was about 17,000 lbs of materials! I got to the store an hour before closing and left an hour after closing. It took a quarter of a tank of gas to drive the 30 miles to the warehouse! They unloaded me in an hour and I got that trailer, generously donated by Ogg Brothers Concrete in Sycamore, OH back to them around 1am on Wednesday. While at the warehouse, the guys I was working with were excellent. They were nice and helpful and didn't seem bothered by the fact that I was there interrupting them. My wife had the same experience as she stopped in there several times with a truck load of stuff as we acquired it. We had locations in Tiffin (Heritage Lanes, New Beginnings church, and Heavenly Pizza), in Upper Sandusky (AJ's Heavenly Pizza), and in Findlay (Risner Spinal Center, Heavenly Pizza, and Flashover Indoor Sports). This was starting to come together really well. “We might fill this truck after all,” I thought.

We will complete this recollection of our journey next week. I greatly appreciate you reading and your prayers and support for our trip to Texas. God moved and lives were changed, including my own.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.