When disaster strikes


What looked to be a typical, rainy spring weekend quickly turned tragic. The rains, heavier than usual, created a 40-foot wall of water that came barreling down the river, wiping houses off their foundations and thrusting cars into trees. The flood in San Marcos Memorial Day weekend 2015 would go down in history as the highest flood recorded in Texas.

But when news of the damage shook the community, First Baptist Church in San Marcos was armed and ready to respond.

Two and a half years ago, volunteers from the church assisted with disaster recovery following the West fertilizer plant explosion. When they returned home, they felt convicted that their church needed to be better prepared in case a similar disaster would ever strike their community.

Under the direction of Monica Followell, minister of missions for FBC San Marcos, members interested in being responders during disasters participated in disaster preparedness training.

Little did they know, disaster would strike their community so soon.

"It was astounding to see the power of what water can do," Followell explained, recalling May 23, 2015. "They call it the 100-year flood. Never can you fathom a 40-foot wall to come barreling through the river ... It's almost too dramatic to even grasp."

Thanks to a database of volunteers created the previous year, Followell was able to rally over 60 willing individuals almost immediately.

The church set up a campaign to raise funds for dumpsters and gift cards. With over $30,000 raised, they provided dinner for families displaced from their homes, purchased building materials, funded storage units and did whatever else they could with the resources to meet the victims' needs.

FBC San Marcos also served as a host location for several relief groups, including Texas Baptists' BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery, where students completed six different projects over the summer.

"There's nothing more valuable than sharing the love of Christ by being there for someone during a time of crisis," Followell said. "With that in mind, it's opened our church up to a bigger understanding of who we are and who Christ is and how we can be a part of clothing someone and feeding someone."

History proves Texas is a common location for unexpected disasters—i.e. the 2011 Bastrop wildfires, the 2013 West fertilizer plant explosion, the 2015 North Texas winter tornadoes and so on.

Responding to community needs following a disaster is a prime opportunity for churches to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, which is why it is important that churches are armed and ready when disaster strikes.

"It's so important to be prepared," Followell emphasized. "You can never expect something like this to happen to your community, but when it does, you want to be able to say, 'We were ready,' not just for the sake of yourself or your church but for the sake of the community."

Learn more about disaster preparedness and steps your church can begin taking now before a disaster strikes at texasbaptists.org/disasterpreparedness.
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