Compassion and service after the hurricane


By John Hall, Contributing Writer

When disaster strikes, First Baptist Church in Athens jumps into high gear.

The congregation often responds to needs in the wake of disaster through Texas Baptist Men. So when it saw the widespread devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey, it did what comes naturally – sought to meet the needs of hurting people.

“A lot of church members have friends down there, they have family down there that’s been affected,” said Steve Akin, the church’s minister of missions.

Because of the proximity of the damage, First Baptist Church and other area congregations worked together through Southeast Texas churches with whom they have relationships. The churches in the disaster area pinpointed specific families with specific needs First Baptist Church could meet.

Four teams served in Southeast Texas from First Baptist Church in the two weeks after the storm cleaning out homes, removing debris and spending time with hurting people and families.

"We just had to start going,” Akin said. “We still had to drive through the water. It took six hours to get from North Houston to Orange because of the traffic.”

“When disaster strikes in your area, you cannot just stand still.”

In the process of serving, the church has distributed nearly 100 five-gallon buckets full of cleaning supplies designed to jump start the cleaning process in the wake of a hurricane.

The teams sought to provide practical help and comfort to those suffering from the storm. When volunteers serve alongside families at crucial times, relationships are built quickly and emotional walls fall, Akin said.

While cleaning out the home of an older couple, a First Baptist Church team removed many items that held sentimental value. Each time, the couple accepted it. Until the team needed to break a mirror in order to remove some drywall. The wife was hoping to keep it and couldn’t watch it be broken. It was simply too much.

“That was just a step too far to see something that was in tact be deliberately broken to remove it,” Akin said.

“Until you’re in their place, you don’t know the sense of loss they have. So much of it has emotional value and an attachment that is hard to get over.”

First Baptist Church seeks to follow God’s calling of where to serve, Akin noted. As the relief effort shifts to long-term recovery, the congregation seeks to go where God leads.

“Wherever we’re invited to serve, we figure it’s probably a pretty good place,” Akin said. “We figure the Lord is in it.”

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