Saphina Khalfan wipes away tears as she talks about how TBM volunteers came to her aid.
Khalfan: 'I could tell they feel my pain'
On her knees in the midst of the “nasty” dirt and debris left behind in her flooded home, Saphina Khalfan cried out to God for help. Within a minute, she heard voices outside. They were Texas Baptist Men volunteers coming to help.
TBM has responded to flooding downstream from Lake Conroe north of Houston. Heavy rain in the area forced authorities to open floodgates on the lake.
Khalfan received a text message informing her the gates were about to be opened and to get to higher ground. About 100 homes were flooded, and TBM came to the aid of homeowners in the area.
Trained volunteers came to the area from throughout the state, and other local volunteers pitched in from churches – including Fellowship of Montgomery, First Baptist Church of Conroe, West Conroe Baptist Church, Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, the Church at Alden Bridge in The Woodlands.
As of the end of day Thursday, TBM had recorded 182 “volunteer days” and 1,439 “volunteer hours.”
Several days after the flood, Khalfan spoke through tears about what she experienced after returning home.
“I was so down, broken, confused, lost, sad, hopeless, helpless,” she said slowly. “When I was at that bottom, face down in the floor. … I was on my knees. Right there, I knew there was nothing I could do. But one thing I knew, I can pray. So I started praying.
“In that blink of a second, … I heard voices coming to my house.”
TBM volunteers were walking to her front door. She heard them talking as they approached.
Khalfan, a Muslim who is originally from Tanzania, said: “When they greeted me and told me what they’re here for, I held them for like 30 minutes, maybe one hour. I cried out loud for the longest time because I couldn’t cry when [the flood] happened because I was trying to put on the straight face and walk through this.
“I just broke down and cried and kept telling them thank you. I hugged them all; they hugged me back,” she said. “I could tell they feel my pain. They might not cry, but they held me so tight. I still feel it.”
Khalfan's father died in February 2016. “To my dad, I was always a little girl. My dad passed, and I never felt his presence until this disaster came.”
Through the TBM volunteers, “God gave me a hundred fathers,” she said. “They hugged me the same way my dad would. They talked to me the way my dad would. I feel they’re loving me the way my dad loved me.”
Kay Robinson, minister of missions at West Conroe Baptist Church, spent the lunch hour visiting with Khalfan about her faith.
More than 60 TBM volunteers came to Conroe this week to remove water-soaked furnishings, rip out ruined sheetrock and carpet, and get homes ready to be rebuilt. They came from local churches and from elsewhere in the state. They worked in eight homes.
One of the volunteers had actually been the first to visit Khalfan’s flooded home when he came as part of his job as an insurance claims adjuster. When Tim Hirt, a member of the Fellowship of Montgomery church, volunteered, he did not know he would be going back to Khalfan’s place.
As a claims adjuster, Hirt has seen many structures damaged by floods and other storms. He said Khalfan’s home had about nine inches of water in it, and he pointed out the residue left behind.
“Every claim is different, and every claim is as important as the other one” for the homeowner, said Hirt (pictured at right). “It’s their property; it’s their investment; it’s their sanctuary. No one wants to have their sanctuary messed up and that’s what floodwater does regardless if it’s a few inches or few feet of water. It’s an emotional toll on a lot of people.”
Fortunately, Khalfan had flood insurance that will help her rebuild. Those funds, however, will only go so far. The TBM volunteers provide their services at no charge, so the homeowners helped in Conroe did not have to hire contractors to do what is called mud out.
“You can find a contractor to do it,” Khalfan said, but “only if you can afford to find a contractor to do it. That’s number one, the financial part of it. If it is a contractor, it is a contract.” They “do the job” and “get out of here.”
Because of the TBM volunteers, Khalfan is now connected with local churches and church members. And she also has the memory of those “hundred fathers” who “hugged me the same way my dad would.”