Hurricane Harvey has caused major destruction in Houston and throughout Texas in the last several days. 21 trillion gallons of rain fell on the Houston area, causing 51 inches of flooding in the worst hit places. Thirty to forty thousand homes were destroyed by floodwaters just in and around Houston; 39 people died, and 13 million were directly affected.
So it’s a relief that ISKCON devotees in Houston are safe – no one was hurt.
They haven’t been completely unaffected: Around eight devotees’ homes sustained flood damage from two feet of water, and they must replace floors, cabinets and doors. Fortunately, other devotees are hosting them while they get back on their feet, and it is heartwarming to see the community members care for each other.
Remarkably, although the area around the ISKCON Houston temple received 35 to 40 inches of rain, the temple was completely untouched by flooding, as were the nearby houses.
The temple and Govinda’s restaurant did lose power and may be without electricity for another week. The heat of the Texas summer, residents say, is intense.
Luckily power has come back on in the nearby Gauranga Hall, so devotees are running an extension cord to the pujari and deity room only.
“Deity worship has continued on nicely,” says temple president Shyamasundara Das, adding that 150 devotees attended the Radhastami celebrations despite the hurricane.
Devotees chanting in the Houston temple -- this weekend's Kirtan Fest will be dedicated to Hurrican Harvey victims
Houston devotees are doing what they can to help the less fortunate. Although the temple doesn’t have equipment for a major food relief operation, they’ve opened their doors and have been serving free prasadam from Govinda’s Restaurant to 300 – 400 people in need every day.
In addition, devotees packed 200 hot meals for vegetarian University of Houston students who are doing volunteer service at various shelters. “The shelters don’t have vegetarian food for volunteers, so we stepped up,” says Shyamasundara.
Hurricane Harvey has now moved away from Houston, water on the highways and streets is receding slowly, and the weather is expected to stay clear throughout the Labor Day Weekend.
ISKCON of Houston will go ahead and hold its planned Kirtan Fest, reducing the previous Friday-to-Monday schedule down to a weekend festival only, on Saturday Sept 2nd and Sunday Sept 3rd.
“Life in Houston is getting back to normal slowly but surely,” reads a post on the official ISKCON of Houston Facebook page. “Many stores and offices have opened and there are vehicles on the roads. Highways and streets leading to the temple are clear at this time. For those traveling from outside the town please plan your trip wisely, check road and highway condition advisories and be safe.”
The kirtan will be dedicated as a prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“For those who cannot make it this year we will miss your association and will pray for you,” organizers say.
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To keep updated, visit https://www.facebook.com/ISKCONofHouston/
For more information about the Kirtan Fest, visit www.kirtanfesthouston.com
Below is the revised schedule for Kirtan Fest:
Saturday Sept 2
12:00 - 01:30 PM - Kirtan
01:30 - 02:45 PM - Lunch
02:45 - 06:00 PM - Kirtan
06:00 - 07:00 PM - Dinner
07:00 - 09:30 PM - Kirtan
Sunday Sept 3 (Half day fasting)
07:00 - 07:30 AM - Sringar Arti & Guru Puja
07:30 - 09:00 AM - Class on Srila BhaktiVinoda Thakur
09:00 - 09:30 AM - Breakfast for seniors and kids
09:30 - 11:45 AM - Bhajans on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur & Kirtan
11:45 - 12:00 PM - Pushpanjali
12:00 - 01:00 PM - Guru Puja & Kirtan
01:00 - 03:00 PM - Lunch
03:00 - 06:00 PM - Kirtan
06:00 - 06:50 PM - Sunday Feast class on Srila BhaktiVinoda Thakur
07:00 - 09:30 PM - Kirtan continues
07:00 PM - Dinner