The devastation Ryan Rush, senior pastor of Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, has witnessed in recent days is heartbreaking.
“We’ve seen hundreds of our neighbors lose everything they owned, and the idea of the work ahead is overwhelming. The thing that sustains us, however, is the incredible way this disaster has brought together the Body of Christ as we seek to share the love of Jesus with our community,” Rush said.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Texas Aug. 25 as a category four hurricane, causing unprecedented destruction. Damage in Texas stretches from Corpus Christi to Beaumont, with an estimated 185,149 homes damaged or destroyed. About one-quarter of Texas Baptists congregations–more than 1,200–are located in the Gulf Coast and East Texas areas impacted by the storm.
“There is no way that any one church can accomplish the task by themselves, but with the help of Texas Baptists and the power of our God, I’m convinced we can bring healing to this region,” Rush said.
Kingsland Baptist Church is one of the Gulf Coast sites to be named a Texas Baptist Men Volunteer Village, where volunteer teams can gather, receive training and go and to serve communities in need of relief work.
“We are diligently raising funds for Texas Baptist Men disaster relief, and working through our Texas Baptists staff in the affected parts of the state,” said David Hardage, Texas Baptists executive director. “I am pleased with the response we’ve seen so far. Our Texas Baptists staff and larger family are praying and responding to provide additional assistance as it becomes available.”
Texas Baptists field personnel, including area representatives, church starters and BSM directors, are on the ground meeting with churches and ministering alongside them. Fred Ater, area representative for region 4 stretching from San Antonio to Galveston, walked alongside churches over the past week, and witnessed God at work in the midst of the devastation.
Ater recalled just a few of the images he witnessed in the days since the storm hit: a pastor crying in his arms; two church members, covered in perspiration, ripping up soaked worship center carpet; church leaders on their knees praying for church members; a TBM Chaplain conducting intake interviews, sharing about Jesus and providing a New Testament; and hearing a young man's testimony and desire to be baptized.
As area representatives and other Texas Baptists staff discover specific needs of Harvey-affected churches, they are adding the names and locations of those churches to an ongoing list. Texas Baptists are encouraging other congregations outside the affected area–even beyond the state–to partner with and meet the needs of these churches.
“Direct church-to-church partnership is one way to focus resources and maximize impact during times like these,” said Hardage. “We are grateful to the churches and associations already employing this model, and we urge all of our congregations to prayerfully considering partnering with one of these churches to support long-term recovery.”
The Convention plans to make public a listing of churches who have expressed specific needs in the days to come.
Texas Baptist Men disaster relief and volunteer villages
As of Aug. 31, Texas Baptist Men had 19 reporting sites around Texas where units were located or will be located, with three more sites in progress and 175 active volunteers. Deployed units included shower/laundry, feeding, child care, chaplains, assessors, asset protection, chainsaw, heavy equipment, flood recovery and a box unit. Through six feeding units around the affected-areas, 18,657 meals were prepared on Aug. 31. The number is expected to continue to rise daily. TBM disaster relief also has additional resources on alert and will be deployed as the storm allows.
Current TBM state partners providing resources include Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana.
TBM is also making arrangements to set up four Volunteer Villages in and around Houston at Texas Baptists churches. Churches can bring volunteer groups to these locations, which includes lodging and meals, while they participate in disaster relief projects such as moving debris, cleaning yards, assisting homeowners retrieve personal property and mucking and gutting out homes.
The four locations will be Kingsland Baptist Church, Sugar Land Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Pasadena and First Baptist Church of Nederland. The volunteer village at Kingsland Baptist Church is operational and the additional three sites will be available soon.
“We are absolutely blessed to host as many teams as the state of Texas can produce,” said Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Church of Nederland. “We are thankful for the Texas Baptist Men, for their work in our community right now. We look forward to being a touchpoint for the spiritual resources of Texas in order to affect change in our community.”
Student disaster and church building recovery efforts
BOUNCE, the student disaster recovery ministry of Texas Baptists, has revised its 2018 schedule for spring break and summer mission trips to exclusively serve Harvey-affected areas along the Gulf Coast. Registration for student groups to participate in these trips is now open.
“We have revised our BOUNCE schedule to mobilize student youth groups to Harvey-affected areas for long-term recovery efforts,” said David Scott, director of BOUNCE. “Our BOUNCE Advisory Group agreed this is reason BOUNCE was created.”
Texas Baptists’ Church Architecture team is also working in an advisory role to help churches with assessment and remedy options for their facilities. Church building recovery is a long-term effort to support congregations.
“This is an opportunity for us to get into homes and present the Gospel in a way we would have never had, had Hurricane Harvey not come to our neighborhood. I hope Texas Baptists and Texas Baptist Men can seize this moment and help as many people as possible,” said Burden.
Click here to donate to TBM Disaster Relief efforts.