Struck by tragedy, family learns to be grateful for each new day


The Blanco River was only supposed to rise to 17 feet the night of May 23, 2015, but Theresa Graves felt an uneasiness. She opted to stay awake while her family slept peacefully in their riverside Wimberley house.

Graves was monitoring her phone app, which displayed updates about water levels, when 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 just bought one year prior.

“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 house. Rather than do all the work on their own, they welcomed the efforts of Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery (TBDR) and BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery volunteers.

In March, one TBDR group--Tyler Junior College BSM 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 their house.

“By the third group of volunteers, I said to God, ‘This is too much. Lord, You have given us too much,’” Graves said with much gratitude. “I can’t really express it in words and even now I get emotional thinking about these servants of the Lord. Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery volunteers and the BOUNCE groups represented Christ so well.”

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 their family learned through the tragedy, it is this: “It teaches you to hold on lightly. 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.”

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