CRESTVIEW — Even before Hurricane Harvey was done dumping massive amounts of water on Texas communities from the Gulf of Mexico inland, one of the Crestview Police Department’s chaplains was headed to the Lone Star State to dispense spiritual support.
The Rev. Harry Tomlin, pastor of the Crestview Mennonite Church and a volunteer with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, received a call at 7:30 in the morning of Aug. 29. It was one of the team’s coordinators.
“He said, ‘Can you go to Texas?’ and I said, ‘When do you need me?’ and he said, How about in the morning?’” Rev. Tomlin said.
But he was gone even sooner. In less than 12 hours he was on the road to Victoria, Texas, close to where the hurricane made landfall just days earlier, joining about nine other chaplains in his group of 150 to 200 volunteers.
With Interstate 10 impassable through eastern Texas, Rev. Tomlin had to drive on Interstate 20 to Dallas before turning south, adding several hours to his overnight journey.
“I’m putting on my crisis team shirt,” Rev. Tomlin said. “We go along with the Samaritan’s Purse. We provide emotional and spiritual support for them (Samaritan’s volunteers), plus the victims. We minister mostly to the victims. In our downtime is when we do our ministry to the SP guys. They do all the heavy work.”
Though a normal Samaritan’s Purse deployment is about a week, Rev. Tomlin said he expected to be in Victoria at least 10 to 11 days, not returning before Sept. 9. In his absence, a retired pastor, one of the church’s founders, will tend to his Crestview flock.