October 29th, 2009 at 11:16 am
DALLAS –When a disaster strikes a church or individual, restoring order is an enormous task when done alone. That’s why Texas Baptists are establishing Church2Church Partnerships to bring hope and help to people and congregations caught in a disaster by connecting them to churches able to offer restoration.
Church2Church Partnerships is a new network for disaster response and crisis needs and service opportunities. The network can be accessed through the Church2Church Web site formed to provide a place for individuals and churches to make their needs known while others have a place to access ministry opportunities.
“After Hurricane Ike hit last year, we realized that with the economy the way it is, the donations for relief wasn’t going to come in like it did for Hurricanes Rita and Katrina,” said Marla Bearden, Texas Baptists Church2Church coordinator. “More than 203 churches were affected in the Galveston, Beaumont and Houston areas, and we knew we had to do something.”
Just a few weeks after the storm struck during fall 2008, Texas Baptists immediately organized, connecting churches like First Baptist Church in Plano and the Garland Vietnamese Baptist Church to needs.
When Jerry Carlisle, pastor of First Baptist Church in Plano, heard reports of the devastation in the tiny town of Oak Island during the September 2008 Texas Baptists Executive Board meeting, his heart was touched and he knew he had to do something.
He approached John Nguyen, pastor of Garland Vietnamese Baptist Church and who had a longstanding relationship with bivocational Pastor Eddie Shauberger at Oak Island Baptist Church because of the high Vietnamese population in the area, and they agreed to contact the church. A week later the two men, along with Carlisle’s son who is a member at the Cowboy Church of Collin County, were in Oak Island assessing damage.
“We drove around Oak Island for a tour, and the damage was unbelievable,” said John Nguyen, pastor of Garland Vietnamese Baptist Church. “Everything was almost gone. We went by the nearby public park, and people had set up tents to live there.”
After the trip, Nguyen decided that continuing in this project would not be feasible for his church, but he connected Vietnamese Memorial Baptist Church in Houston with Shauberger. The church now goes down weekly to lead Bible studies and help with ministry in the area. Through these endeavors, 11 of the 26 families in the town have become Christians.
“No one church can do much, but together we can do more,” Nguyen said. “Biblically, Jesus could have changed the whole world but He wanted to have disciples. It’s a lesson to work together to do more, and it works. It has more impact than just one person and one church doing ministry.”
Since the initial contact a year ago, about 120 volunteers from First Baptist Church in Plano have made more than 15 trips to Oak Island to help mud out homes and the church, clear debris, distribute food, paint houses and rebuild the church in addition to providing a washer and dryer trailer for the community. Danny Mayfield, a member of the church, has become the coordinator of the endeavor and has been able to direct efforts to additional churches like First Baptist Church of Anahuac.
“Every time I’ve been, [community members] all say the same thing – God spoke to us though Ike,” Carlisle said. “We go for the sake of meeting those needs. People in that kind of tragic situation are so open to the love of Jesus, and we are able to show Christ’s love in actions and words, which is powerful.”
This example is what Church2Church Partnerships are about, Bearden said. Even a year after Hurricane Ike, churches like West End Baptist Church in Galveston, where the pastor and his wife are living in the church because their home is still in disrepair, are in need of partnerships.
Through the network, churches and individuals submit a need or connect to a need by visiting http://texasbaptists.org/evangelism-missions/church2church-partnerships/. Once a request is submitted, it will be reviewed by the Texas Baptists disaster relief team and approved projects will be posted to the site. The network is designed to connect Texas churches but is not exclusive to projects or churches outside of the state or country. Also this is a tool that will assist as new disasters occur.
“We are a network of information,” Bearden said. “One church may be able to provide funds, but not people, while another church may have the manpower to fulfill the need. It’s all about working together. Currently we are looking at this as a disaster related partnership.”
Partnerships may be short-term, one-time projects or long-term commitments like the one mentioned above. These endeavors may include financial support, physical effort or spiritual encouragement. Eventually, Bearden would like to see Church2Church partnerships form for purposes other than disaster related needs, such as ministry projects or outreach programs.
“The biggest movement of churches partnering with each other is happening now,” said Wayne Shuffield, director of Texas Baptists Evangelism/Missions Center. “This is an exciting time for Texas Baptists.”
Bearden suggests that interested parties frequent the project Web site as the list will consistently change as projects are added or completed.
“I hope people will be able to have the opportunity to experience assisting a church that’s been effected by a disaster because it’s life changing,” Bearden said. “And for churches effect by the disaster, I hope they will see other sister churches willing and wanting to help when there is a disaster and know that they are not alone.”
As part of City Reach, a series of outreach projects in the Houston area held in the weeks prior to Texas Baptists Annual Meeting, Church2Church partnerships has needs with sites available to visit so that interested churches can see and discuss possible partnerships.