Refugio church struggles to recover from Harvey

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Dec. 3, 2017 at 9:12 p.m.

The Saints Memorial Church of God in Christ sustained damage when Hurricane Harvey passed through Refugio in late August. The Rev. Darius Robertson shows where the damage is most visible in the fellowship hall at the church.

The Saints Memorial Church of God in Christ sustained damage when Hurricane Harvey passed through Refugio in late August. The Rev. Darius Robertson shows where the damage is most visible in the fellowship hall at the church.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

The sounds of singing echoed through the cinder block walls of a small Refugio church, offering no indication that just a half-dozen people were inside.

Normally, about 25 people gather at Saints Memorial Church of God in Christ for the Sunday service. But nothing has been normal since Hurricane Harvey.

The hurricane ripped apart the church's roof and forced most of the congregation from their homes.

But in the wake of the disaster, the church's leaders and devotees are determined to rebuild what has been at the heart of their community for almost 87 years, according to the pastor.

"It's a place of worship," the Rev. Darius Robertson said. "It represents hope to the community."

A house missing a roof, a pile of soggy construction materials and homes covered in blue tarps line Barefield Street, which is home to the church where parishioners have gathered for decades.

The pastor's wife, Candace Robertson, said only four families in the congregation were able to stay in their homes. Some are living in Beeville, she said, while others are staying in San Antonio and Portland.

Mary Brown, 64, was one of the lucky ones. Her home in Refugio was damaged, but she can still live in it, she said.

"To me, it hasn't been that bad," said Brown, who has attended the church for years. "I've been blessed."

Brown, who grew up in Refugio, said it was terrible seeing what happened to the rest of the small, quiet town.

Homes were blown apart, and some businesses still haven't reopened three months after Harvey struck. Although the church was soaked with water and its roof ripped apart, it too was fortunate to not be destroyed.

"God just kind of preserved our little building here," the pastor's wife said.

The church, however, was far from unscathed. Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $40,000 in damage, she said.

Mildew is forming in the attic, and the foundation has moved, sending cracks through the walls. Layers of paint are peeling off the ceiling.

"We're just praying to the Lord it falls while no one's here," Robertson said.

Robertson and her husband are still able to hold Sunday service in the church, but the back room used for storing supplies and hosting community meals is unusable.

Robertson has started to host the meals in her own home, and the events have attracted anywhere from 30 to 50 people, she said.

She is working to help raise the money to fix the building but knows it may not happen quickly, she said.

"People have already spent their life savings repairing their own homes," Robertson said.


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