Blue tarps still cover roofs in need of repair in communities like Rockport, near Corpus Christi, and Bevil Oaks, north of Beaumont. Abandoned homes are interspersed among the remodeled on many streets. One year after Category 4 Hurricane Harvey wrecked and ravaged the Gulf Coast of Texas from August 25-September 1, 2017, signs of renewal and hope are evident in the Texas Baptists churches serving along that path of the storm.
At First Baptist Church in Refugio, Pastor T. Wayne Price has seen God’s faithfulness and provision as several community members have made professions of faith and the attendance of the church has remained strong. The congregation currently meets in a local school cafeteria as they await completed construction on their sanctuary.
“Our town desperately needs our church to be faithful–for us to be strong and continue to share the Gospel both in worship and daily living and relational evangelism,” Price said.
During the storm, 140 mph winds removed the majority of the church’s roof, destroying everything inside. The roof has been replaced, but the interior of the church and the adjoining sanctuary are stripped to bare walls and studs. As work continues on the building, Price has seen God’s hand of provision every step of the way.
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned, and my people have learned, is our total dependence on God. He is sovereign,” said Price.
Refocusing ministry efforts in changing communities
As Pastor Robert Ring walked around the campus of First Baptist Church in Bevil Oaks, he discussed the changes in his congregation–from families who did not move back after the storm, to others who were placed in assisted living or passed away over the last year. Ring noted the recovery effort in his community could take three to five years. As the school year began, new families moved into the area and new ministry opportunities opened for FBC.
“This is a new day for the church. We are basically planting a church again,” said Ring.
During Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent rains, many structures in the community took on between five and nine feet of water. Currently, only about 40 percent of the community is back in their homes. The church meets 10 minutes away at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont on Sundays, where they have been since last September. They are thankful for the generosity of the sister congregation in providing a meeting space. Once the church’s Family Life Center remodel is completed this fall, Ring looks forward to meeting on their campus and being back with their neighbors.
“Harvey in a way was a huge blessing. It took everyone out of their normal,” Ring said. “It gave us a new opportunity to minister to our community.”
Many pastors expressed gratitude to Baptist partners who sent financial help, volunteer teams, and prayers over the last year. Pastor David Maldonado of Iglesia Bautista Jesus de Nazaret in Houston attributed the church’s recovery to the help of others like Northside Baptist Church in Corsicana and Central Baptist Church in Livingston. The partnering churches sent work teams every weekend for many months as they completely rebuilt the interior of Iglesia Bautista.
While the congregation lost several families during the rebuilding process, the Lord has been faithful to send new members. In May, Iglesia Bautista held an inauguration service to dedicate their remodeled sanctuary. Maldonado is excited about a new feeding ministry the church will start in September, made possible through reconstruction on the church kitchen and the purchase of new appliances. He looks forward to new ministry efforts to share the love of Jesus with the community.
Pastor Dee Blasingame, of Calvary Baptist Church in Aransas Pass, had tears in his eyes as he expressed thanks to the partners who came alongside him during one of the hardest years of his ministry. The small congregation of 30 people did not know how they would be able to rebuild their church after suffering significant flooding with no insurance. When Ricky Null, a member of First Baptist Church in Terrell, connected with Blasingame and said his church wanted to come and help, Blasingame knew it was an answer to prayers.
“God kept opening up doors. He showed me there is nothing too big for him. The hardest thing for me was to be patient,” Blasingame said. “I have learned to take it one day at a time. We’ve come a long ways with God’s help, and other people’s help.”
Additional assistance from Texas Baptists, other churches from across the United States, and ministries like Samaritan’s Purse, provided funds and labor to help rebuild. Blasingame joyfully anticipates the church dedication service on October 20 and a revival to begin the following day.
Through the last year, Texas Baptists helped more than 100 churches through financial contributions such as church building recovery grants, Church2Church partnerships, Texas Baptist Men volunteers, BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery groups and countless other ministry efforts. While much has been done, much work still remains. Area Representative Fred Ater encouraged churches to continue to partner with South Texas churches still in the rebuilding process.
“As you consider what the next year is going to be like for you and your mission efforts, consider your church coming and helping one of these churches finish up the work they need to do to be able to get back into their buildings and use them as a ministry hub to be able to reach their communities for Christ,” said Ater.
For more information on how to help with Texas Baptists Hurricane Harvey rebuilding efforts, visit texasbaptists.org/harvey.