The Blanco River was only supposed to rise to 17 feet the night of May 23, 2015, but Theresa Graves felt uneasiness. She opted to stay awake while her family slept peacefully in their riverside house in Wimberley.
Graves was monitoring a phone app which displayed updates about water levels. Suddenly, the predicted numbers nearly doubled.
“At 11:45 that night,” she recalled, “the levels jumped from 17.4 feet to 34 feet in one update. At that point, I knew we needed to go.”
Graves rushed to wake up her two children, Christian and Rachel, and her husband, Mike. They, along with their four pets, miraculously escaped the treacherous currents, which were already covering their driveway, and made it safely to the city community center.
The next morning, the family returned home. Graves stood in the front yard, gazing upon the house they had purchased just one year before.
“When I drove up, the front of our house looked normal,” she said. “But I stood there for 15 minutes just bawling, because I knew that once we went in, it wouldn’t look the same.”
Graves made the motion to walk inside. Though the water had receded, mud caked the floors, and it was evident the river had risen over the back portion of the house.
As months passed by, the family chose not to move and began the daunting task of repairing their home. Rather than do all the work on their own, they welcomed the efforts of Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery and BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery volunteers.
In March, one disaster recovery group — Tyler Junior College Baptist Student Ministry and two additional volunteers — and two BOUNCE groups — Mimosa Lane Baptist Church youth group and Bethlehem Baptist Church youth group — collectively helped the Graves make tremendous progress on the house.
“By the third group of volunteers, I said to God, ‘This is too much. Lord, You have given us too much,’” Graves said. “I can’t really express it in words and even now I get emotional thinking about these servants of the Lord.”
The volunteers helped clean up the property, cut and install insulation and hang sheetrock — tasks that not only helped the homeowners but taught the volunteers invaluable skills.
“I think I’ve worked really hard this trip,” said Yvonne Tomlin, student from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield. “I’ll take back how hard I’ve worked and put that into church and what I do at school. It gives a sense of pride to know that I helped to make this home back to what it was.”
The road to recovery has been exhausting, Graves said. But if there was something the family learned through the tragedy, it is to value what is really most important.
“It teaches you to hold on lightly,” Graves said. “Even as Christians, we know it’s not our home, it’s not where we will always live. You know those things, but it’s easy to fall into materialism. [We have] learned to hold on real lightly and just to be very grateful for every day.”