Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helped a Texan couple pick up the pieces of what was supposed to be the beginning of their new life together after the flood affected their home and many others in Onion Creek
Robert and Sharon Austin aren’t your typical newlyweds. While most couples pre-plan their honeymoon with a definite start and end point, this couple in their 70s decided on a whim to extend their honeymoon at Mustang Island off the Gulf Coast of Texas by just a couple of days.
The decision is one that probably saved their lives.
On October 31, torrential rains caused deadly flash flooding in Austin, Texas, especially in the community of Onion Creek where Robert lived. His home of 44 years was going to be the place Robert and Sharon would soon call “their home” and start their new life together. But when they returned from their honeymoon, the two former widowers were unfortunately greeted by a complete disaster.
The waterline came up to 5 feet in some places, and the house was still very much covered in mud and water. Robert’s belongings were destroyed. Memories he shared with his deceased wife Billie were gone. A stainless steel double burner grill he loved was also gone.
Shaking his head, Robert said, “I’m thankful that we were not here.”
The flash flooding caught homeowners in Central Texas by surprise as many people were still sleeping in their beds at 6 a.m. when the floodwaters rapidly rose to 3-5 feet inside homes.
“If we didn’t stay a couple extra days on our honeymoon, I don’t think either one of us would be here today. I really believe that, ” Sharon said, who described the damage in their home as dangerous with flood waters causing whole pieces of furniture to move and glass to shatter around their home. “I don’t think we would’ve made it out.”
Discouraged and downtrodden, the couple didn’t even know where to begin in putting the pieces of their lives together. Robert could only focus on pruning his rose bushes as he meandered around his home’s damage, trying to figure out what to do. His new bride and even his children were worried that he was going to “give up.”
Fortunately, the newlyweds were connected with Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers who were able to help bring new hope into their lives. Samaritan’s Purse came in to the area soon after the storm to lift a burden physically and emotionally for many residents affected by the disaster, including the Austins. Volunteers worked tirelessly on their home, cleaning the mud out and removing flood damaged sheetrock, insulation, and flooring.
“They couldn’t have done this work themselves,” said Leslie Meinen, a volunteer from Texas. “The door was swollen so shut they couldn’t even open the door. The windows wouldn’t open.”
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers do more than just remove the mud from homes or clean up debris in the wake of a disaster. They make it a point to be there to support the homeowners in their time of need to share the love of Christ and bring a new hope amid a hopeless situation.
“This is a new beginning for them even though they are in their older years, and they have a fresh start together as a couple. I just see that all over their hearts,” Leslie said, describing how the couple has learned to cope in the aftermath of this record-breaking flood. “They are talking about what kind of floor they are going to put down, what kind of paint they are going to put on the wall— kind of like brand new 20-year-old newlyweds.”
Now that the damage has been handled, Robert has found a new thing to focus on instead of the destruction or even his rose bushes—gratitude.
“I thank God we have each other,” he said. “I’m thankful to have this woman by my side. Yes, I am.”
Please continue to pray for homeowners as we reach out to them during this difficult time.