Palacios: ‘I need to be there’ to help victims
“I need to go there,” Josue Palacios told his wife Claribel, after watching the news unfold on television about the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.
“If you feel the Lord is calling you, then you should go,” she responded to her husband. Palacios, a student pastor at the nearly 200-member Rayo de Luz Church in Ghent, then got down and prayed that night.
“The next morning I knew I should go there and help,” he told. “It was hard watching on television all the kids and others climbing on roofs and trees to get above the water. I just wanted to help them in some way.”
The next step was for Palacios to inform Pastor Tibro Pedro of his idea and to ask for the use of the church bus.
“He approved and told me that I should go to Texas,” Palacios said. “So some of the church members and I made a plan.”
In just over a week, Palacios and several members of the church worked feverishly to raise enough money to pay for the gas for the 2,000-mile round trip.
“We figured that we needed about $2,500 for gas for the bus and another van to make it to Houston and back,” Palacios said.
After posting the news of their potential mission trip to Houston with a Facebook video, the church members camped outside their church along Highway 68 in Ghent for three days with signs asking for monetary donations and/or supplies to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
At first, the donations were mostly coins. But when news began to spread about their need for money and supplies, folding money became more prevalent; a few of them were $100 bills.
“I couldn't believe how much help we were getting,” Palacios said. “People were so generous and helpful. Donations were coming from all over.”
One woman in Minneapolis saw the church group’s video and called to inform them that she would donate 100 cases of water if someone would come and pick them up. The cases were 32-packs, or 3,200 individual bottles.
“My wife and I took the bus there to pick them up,” said Palacios. Palacios' brother, Joel, who lives in the Twin Cities area, then began to take collections for food and supplies, as well as getting his church involved.
“My brother opened his house so people could bring donations,” Palacios explained. “His church took up a collection for supplies and gave us diapers, formula, baby wipes, cereal, rice and beans. We made another trip to the Cities to pick all of those supplies up, too.”
Community Action of Marshall donated five cases of canned foods, as well as some clothing items. Prairie Hospice House of Marshall donated t-shirts, thermometers, gauze and other medical supplies.
“I'm an EMT for Marshall and Minneota,” Palacios said. “So they gave those things so I could help check some of the people out to see how they were feeling.”
The 4.0 bus drivers of Minneota also took up a monetary collection and donated it to the church. A group from Cottonwood donated toiletries such as razors, shampoo, conditioner and toilet paper.
“I don’t know who they were, but they must have been an angel,” Palacios said. And despite the short amount of time, the ambitious and kind-hearted church members collected a mountain of supplies. “We filled the bus, even with some of the seats taken out,” laughed Palacios.
“And we took some of the seats out of a large Chevy 350 van and filled that. The van pulled a trailer that was full of 200 cases of water.” A friend of Claribel Palacios came from the Twin Cities with another Chevy 350 van and trailer and went along on the trip. Her van and trailer were also filled with supplies.
When the vehicles left Ghent, they were given a send-off with a fire truck in the lead.
The group of 12 (four in each vehicle) left on Tuesday and arrived in Waco, Texas early Thursday afternoon. Those making the trip were Palacios, Idania Castillo, Letty Garcia, Pastora Ana M. Villasana, Pastora Irma Monterroso, Imelda Sandobal, Belmy Lopez, Juan Perez, Mynor Garcia, Teresa Romero, Shana Redday and Hector Dominguez. “We have a (sister) church (in Waco),” said Palacios.
“And they had a van full of supplies, too. So we all went to a church in Humble, Texas called La fe de Fuego, which is about five miles from Houston, to drop off all the supplies.”
The Ghent church members then went into Houston Thursday and Friday to spread the word about where the people there could go for food and supplies.
“We also talked to some of the people in homes to see if they had room for a family or two to stay with them until those people could get a place of their own,” said Palacios.
“Some of them lost their car, their home and all their belongings. They were basically homeless.”
The scene in Houston was grim. “Everything is so dirty,” Palacios said.
“It is so quiet and empty. When the people saw our Minnesota license plates, they all smiled and came up to us and shook our hands, hugged us and thanked us. I wanted to cry, but I kept it inside.”
The church group was welcomed home to Ghent on Sunday. It should be considered a hero’s welcome.