By Carol Harper
Lorain native Rev. Gregory Ballard said effects of Hurricane Harvey may be surprising.
“It depends on which set of spectacles you’re wearing,” said Ballard, who moved 11 years ago with his wife, Elaine Ballard, and children Gregory Ballard II, Joshua Ballard, and Kiara Ballard, from Lorain to the Houston area.
“I see a city that’s devastated, and more rain and water than I’ve seen anywhere except the lake and the ocean,” Ballard said. “On the other hand, I see some of the best folks in the world making whatever sacrifices they can to help others in need.”
Ballard serves as chaplain at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, and at Community Hospital in Katy, about five miles west of the Houston city limits, he said.
He lives in Katy, which is a suburb down what they call the energy corridor, he said.
“It’s a huge hospital,” Ballard said, adding he’s worked there for three years.
Lorain residents may be acquainted with Ballard from his school days. He graduated in 1979 from Admiral King High School, he said. He pastored Friendship Baptist Church, and started Greater Victory Christian Fellowship, both in Lorain. His children attended Lorain and Amherst schools.
“By the grace of God our home at this moment is dry,” Ballard said. “My son who lives with his wife very close is dry as well. It’s just a crap shoot. Around us is wet, but we have dry houses and power.
“We live fairly close to the Addicks Reservoir, one of the major dams in the area,” Ballard said. “There is concern water is going to overflow its banks. We’re concerned because we’re not out of the woods. They’re letting out water in a controlled release to prevent a breech. We’re just praying and hoping for the best.”
Ballard has not been home since Aug. 26, he said.
“The hospital staff is incredible,” Ballard said. “Most of the folks have been here since Saturday, and today is Tuesday. We’re probably going to be here until the weekend, so that means all of the things you do personally we try to do here as we take care of our patients.”
As a pastor, Ballard answered a call to a two-fold assignment: take care of patients and take care of staff.
“So far my task is to wipe the tears and help them focus on what is before us,” Ballard said. “I’ve had a number of folks calling me. I tell them, ‘I’m seeing whatever you’re seeing on television. It’s that and then some.’
“Houston is a courageous city, but it’s going to take a lot of time for this city to recover,” Ballard said. “We certainly desire prayer, because we need God’s help at this time. But there’s also going to be a real need to repair homes, repair churches, to try to pay bills. The challenge of trying to situate yourself so you can take care of all of your responsibilities is the challenge in a natural disaster. Rebuilding resources is going to be key.”
He is impressed with the hearts of people around him.
“One of the things I hear is this is an incredible, resilient community,” Ballard said. “I don’t know of a place I would rather be in a disaster than Houston. The big-heartedness of Texans in making self-sacrifices to help others is incredible. It’s like they would be (in Lorain), with neighbors helping neighbors, rich, poor, black, white, none of those things matter. It’s just people helping people.”
The response of ordinary folks made an impression.
“Looking out I saw where boats were being staged,” Ballard said. “They were everyday people, with fishing boats, canoes, kayaks. They’re using what they have to go and help others. Even though we’re seeing some of the worst of times, we’re seeing the best in people. When angels are needed, they show up.”
People reached out to Ballard and encouraged him to flee Texas with his whole clan, and offered airfare to Ohio regardless of cost.
“But I’m going to go down with the ship,” Ballard said. “I’m not leaving out of here.”
Ballard also pastors a church, Victory Christian Church in Missouri, Texas, but he cannot reach it, because the roads are impassable. If someone would like to help his church, they can send donations to Ballard’s home at 22123 Guston-Hall Lane in Katy, 77449.
“The people in Lorain County need to know that the kind of service I’m able to do here, I’m able to do because the spirit that exists there is like those here,” Ballard said. “I want people to know what they taught me to do there, I’m doing here. I learned how to serve there, so I’m serving here.”