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'We Drove by Faith' - Houston Family Escapes after Evacuation Routes Close

'We Drove by Faith' - Houston Family Escapes after Evacuation Routes Close Read Transcript

And we're joined right now by Jeremiah Johnston, a professor

at Houston Baptist University, who

was forced to evacuate his home this week

with his wife and their five young children,

including baby triplet boys.

Jeremiah, thank you so much for joining us.

Heather, It's a privilege to be on the program.

Thank you for having me.

You are at a hotel right now, well north of your home,

relatively safe.

Police told you to evacuate your home

in Richmond, Texas outside of Houston early Monday morning.

Had you been expecting that order, and how

did you decide what to do?

That's a great question, Heather.

No we were not.

Our family like hundreds of thousands

of other families across Houston were

in fact told not to evacuate, to shelter in place.

But we live in Fort Bend County.

And just for the benefit of your viewing audience, who may not

have ever lived through a hurricane,

it's important to point out that we

have all of these levees around the Brazos River in Fort Bend


We live within the Pecan Grove levee.

And so at about midnight, early Monday morning, Judge Hebert

got on the media and said, all of these levee districts

are now under mandatory evacuation.

Police began-- as you rightly said-- going door to door.

We had very little time, and we had to get out.

And we had to get out now.

And that's where our harrowing journey really began.

Just to get out of Houston was half the battle

because, unfortunately, the police were not answering.

I called the Richmond Police Department.

They could not give us evacuation routes, if you

can imagine that, Heather.

It was, for a while, every man for himself,

and we had to pray.

We had to ask God to lead us how to get out of Houston.

Someone who might be watching this

might think, what's the big deal?

Just drive out of town.

Five of the six evac routes that Audrey and I had

selected to take were either impassable or flooded.

So what was going through your head

when you were driving the car in that incredible situation?

You know what, I was fearful for the life

of our family and our kids--

if you can imagine.

As you said, we have our eight-year-old daughter.

She is sitting between two of our triplets

with bottles in their mouths, just trying to keep them quiet.

Our son Justin is seated next to Jackson, his triplet brother,

and we are driving on that fifth evacuation route, Heather.

We get on the Grand Parkway, which is State Highway 99,

in Houston.

We go from Bellaire to I-10, a six and a half mile journey,

and we realized that the entire highway is shut down at I-10.

It's submerged under water.

And in a split second, because I have to evacuate my family--

I cannot be stranded there with our triplet babies--

we turn the car around.

And we begin driving contraflow, which

means I am driving in the speed lane of oncoming traffic.

I'm flashing our brights.

We have our hazard lights on.

We come up about five miles into this contraflow,

drive to an overpass, 1093.

And I know--

Heather, I know if there's a vehicle coming

over the overpass, they will not be able to see us.

There's no shoulder on this bridge.

My wife and I looked at each other.

What was going through our head-- we were fearful.

But we pray.

We said, Jesus, protect us and your angels around this car,

and we drove by faith.

God protected us.

We exited the on-ramp by a Sam's Club in Richmond, Texas,

and we were able to vector out of Highway 59.

But as I stated a moment ago, that

was just half the battle because, again, it's not just


As anyone knows, who's been watching the news,

it's the entire south region of Texas

that's been ripped apart by this hurricane.

We were driving through little towns

that had tornado problems.

We were able to see into people's homes

because their homes were ripped apart by tornadoes,

so the Lord really lead us though.

But it took about four hours, from those wee hours

in the morning at first light, until we crossed I-10

on 71 Highway where we knew that we were out of harm's way.

How did you know where to go?

I mean did you think about the shelters

in the city, or any public shelters,

or did you just feel you had to leave the Houston

area altogether?

I really felt lead that we needed to leave the Houston

area altogether.

We have special needs with our triplets.

They were preemies, and they were in the NICU,

not even a year ago, for two months.

And so they have some special attention

that we can give them.

That we need to have certain systems in place

to give to them.

And so we just felt lead to leave.

I stayed up until about 4:00 AM Monday

morning before we evacuated trying to carefully choose

those evacuation routes.

And I just cannot tell you the overwhelming feeling of fear

when you're driving through an evacuation route and all

of a sudden the road is gone, and there is a river going over

the road.

That final route we took through downtown Richmond

in Texas in Fort Bend County, just a few hours later

was overcome by the Brazos River.

And even right now, Heather, we are still

under a mandatory evacuation-- our family

and thousands of others-- because the river continues

to rise, the Brazos River.

Well, I have to ask you-- what's also so interesting

about this situation is you are the head of something called

the Christian Thinker Society, and you are a professor

at a Christian university.

I mean you have thought about your faith,

and you are trying to live out your faith.

What have you learned as a believer

going through these life and death struggles?

Well, that is such a great question, Heather.

And thank you for bringing it up.

The Apostle Paul was never afraid to tell people

about his adversities and troubles.

I would remind our audience of 2 Corinthians chapter

one, verse eight when Paul wrote to the Corinthian church,

I do not want you to be ignorant brothers of the trouble

I faced in Asia.

We were burdened beyond measure.

You know the rest of the passage,

but then he goes on and for five verses

he uses that word encouragement 10 times in the [INAUDIBLE]..

We serve the God of all encouragement, who encourages

us in our trials, so we can encourage others

with the same encouragement that we received in our trial.

That's what was going through my head.

Our faith is built through adversity, Heather.

The Christian faith is all about equipping all of us

to respond to the crucibles that we face in life.

For the Johnston family on Monday

morning, when we were running out of our house in our pajamas

to evacuate under an emergency evacuation,

that was our crucible.

But I'm happy to tell you that my wife and I, we

just remained in the spirit of prayer.

We honestly never stopped praying.

We needed wisdom.

When we pulled over on Highway 59 because our little kiddos

had to use the bathroom-- because we literally yanked

them out of bed and left--

I happened to run into a sheriff who said, don't go to El Campo.

Those roads are shut down, and he re-vectored me.

And so, I choose to see all of the blessings

in the midst of this adversity, and I wrote in the Fox piece

Monday in many respects was the worst day of our life,

but we have to also say it was the best

day because God protected us.

He led us, and He brought those good Samaritans

that we read about in Luke chapter 10 into our life.

Even the Good Samaritan at the hotel where we're staying,

who went to Walmart to make sure that we had three pack in place

in our hotel room.

That is really beautiful.

So at this point in time, you're at a hotel.

Well, what are your next plans?

You know what, God's people are so amazing,

and we have just sensed the body of the Christ sprang

into action.

Our church has a motto in Houston

that we started saying at Houston's First Baptist.

As the waters recede, love will rise.

And our family's been the recipient of love.

We're going to check out of this hotel tomorrow.

I've ran out of all my hotel points that I used to stay here

this week, and a sweet family's offered their home to us

to stay at for as long as we need,

until we're able to return to our home.

We still, Heather, don't even know the status of our home

in Pecan Grove.

I have friends who were just Facebook Live-ing-- as

of the time of this interview-- that their home was just

overtaken by flooding that's not far from ours.

Because, again, the Brazos River is

going to reach a 100 year high tomorrow,

so I would just ask for all of your audience

to pray for our families.

But we do-- the joy the Lord is our strength,

and that is not a cliche.

That's not bumper sticker theology.

That's what's getting us through right now because we

don't have any other choice.

God is going to let us persevere through this.

He already is.

What is the biggest struggle for you right now?

I think the biggest struggle for me as a dad--

because my first ministry, way before being president

of Christian Thinkers Society, or a professor, or an author,

my job is to be a dad.

And even just this morning-- daddy when can we

go home to our house?

Is our house OK?

And just trying to help kids understand-- an 8-year-old,

a five-year-old understand-- why this is happening.

Are there toys OK?

Is our church OK?

What about my-- we just started school, Heather.

We all did our back to school photographs,

and the whole schedule has been upended.

So I think that's the most difficult thing for me is just

honestly trying to stay in a faith filled frame of mind,

to try to be a good example for our kids.

Because we're blessed.

We were able to get out of Houston.

Several of my colleagues were airlifted,

and they are in those shelters right now that need supplies.

They need volunteers, and we really do need prayer.

All right, well, please know we are praying for you.

Thank you for taking the time, and we are just

trusting for all God's best for your family.

Heather, thank you so much.

I really appreciate you just raising awareness just

for the needs.

I really appreciate the work you're doing.



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