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The Oaks Adventist Christian School Rebuilds, Counts Blessings After Hurricane Harvey

Oaks School students in renovated classroom

The Oaks Adventist Christian School students attend class in one of the school's renovated classrooms. Photo provided by the Southwestern Union Record

More than a year after record-setting Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the damage done to Texas still seems harrowingly fresh. This is no surprise, considering that 50 inches of rain flooded homes, schools, businesses, and more.

Many people are still struggling to recover from the category four hurricane, however, the Oaks Adventist Christian School (the Oaks) in Cypress, Texas, is able to count many blessings that resulted from the tragedy.

“I have seen the Lord bless us repeatedly,” said Brenda Elms, the Oaks elementary school principal and kindergarten teacher. “I can only praise the Lord!”

It took two weeks to gain access to the Oaks campus after the hurricane. Even then, staff needed a boat to reach campus. The gym, sitting on high ground, sustained 19 inches of water damage. Seven feet of water flooded the elementary school.

“It looked like there was a lake around the school,” remembered Lily Hernandez, treasurer for the Oaks. “We needed a boat just to get on campus. It was horrible. At the time, I felt no hope at all. I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling.”

Faculty and staff decided to do everything possible to continue providing Seventh-day Adventist education. Even before plans could be made, people from all reaches of the world began to offer help.

The gymnasium became a temporary classroom for all grades. Wooden partitions, built by volunteers, separated each class. On September 3, 2017, nearly 300 volunteers from across the Southwestern Union gathered to remove debris and clean the school. This helped the school compile an inventory of needed items. It also made it possible for classes to resume, on campus, just three weeks after the storm.

Oaks School flood damage after Hurricane Harvey

The Oaks school in Texas sustained major damage after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of water in the state. Photo provided by the Southwestern Union Record

Rebuilding the School

The Oaks expected to experience a decrease in enrollment after the strom. Instead, it experienced the highest enrollment in the history of the school. With an increased enrollment came an increase of cash flow. The extra cash helped the school focus on rebuilding.

In addition, the North American Division, the Southwestern Union, and the Texas Conference shared the story of what happened at the Oaks. As a result, people from around the world sent in donations. An organization called Save the Children also made a sizable donation to help the school rebuild. Overall, the Oaks received $80,000 in donations.

These funds helped replace all the lost curriculum materials, as well as complete construction on rooms for the high school, completely debt free. To mitigate harm that may be caused by future floods, the Oaks will now concentrate on building new structures on higher ground.

“The Lord has definitely blessed us,” said Hernandez. “Now I can definitely see that the Lord had a better plan, because the school is in a better position now than it’s ever been.”

Construction was completed on the former attic of the gymnasium, which is now the high school, in January 2019. This new section contains four classrooms, a computer lab, and two bathrooms. A dedication service was held on Feb. 21, 2019.

The chapel will be rebuilt next. As the Oaks continues to grow in enrollment, they will also work toward earning full academy status starting in fall 2019.

“I don’t know who all sent in money, but we were blessed by them,” said Elms. “The Lord is waiting to bless us all, if we just wait on Him.”

— Makala James writes for the Southwestern Union Record magazine; the original article was published in the March/April 2019 edition of the Record.