By Jim Nieman
Tim Liston, senior pastor of New Hope Church, a multisite megachurch with four locations mainly south of Houston, posted a “Hurricane Harvey Devotional” Sunday based on Matthew 8. In it, Liston says, “The best place to be in a storm is with Jesus.”
New Hope, like most churches in the Greater Houston area, were forced to cancel onsite services Sunday because of the storm that has dumped, in some places, more than 50 inches of rain since Friday.
When we checked on New Hope late Tuesday afternoon, church executive director Ed Martinez answered the phone. With the power out in much of that region, all the calls to the church were being routed to his personal phone. And the calls were coming in virtually nonstop.
He said he had just gotten off the phone with a family that a short time earlier had been forced to leave their home because 12 inches of water was in it, but another family had taken them in.
“We’ve had all kinds of scenarios down here. People are losing their homes, but people are taking them in. We’re seeing a little bit of everything right now.”
“People are helping people down here. We’ve been able to direct people to shelter,” Martinez said.
“We’ve been receiving calls from all over the country. People are ready to come down and help by sending work teams. There’s a school in Kentucky [that just called] that’s gathering up hygiene supplies to send here.”
He said the region where New Hope’s campuses are located has seen 20 to 30 inches of rain. Thus far, it would appear New Hope’s four sites have been able to weather the storm relatively well, “but it’s hard to tell at this point.” He said church staff might be able to return to their offices Thursday to do a better assessment of damages.
Martinez said New Hope plans to play a big role in helping people in their region recover. A Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has been set up to help with needs large and small.
“We’re absolutely going to do our part,” Martinez said.
Crossroads Christian Church, a multisite megachurch in Grand Prairie, Texas, with other locations in Greater Dallas, is partnering with New Hope Church, according to Crossroads’ website. “CROSSROADS is responding to Hurricane Harvey with financial assistance, supplies and sending teams of workers to help support and encourage our brothers and sisters in south TEXAS!” Crossroads’ website states. The site lists more than two dozen items that can be donated toward relief efforts.
OTHER CHURCHES IN HOUSTON AND THE SURROUNDING AREA are also planning recovery efforts and accepting donations to help finance them:
On Monday, Cy-Fair tweeted, “Our hearts are absolutely breaking for our community,” and on Tuesday the church tweeted, “CFCCers, we’re praying that the flood waters recede today. As they do, our church wants to be in a ready-position.”
Late Wednesday morning, interim lead pastor Dale Smith said he and the elders had contacted every member of the congregation (which averages 300 t0 350 on Sundays) to see how they are doing. Via these phone calls and other online efforts, people were asked if they have a need and/or are they willing to meet a need.
Smith said of the 16 families he contacted, 25 percent of them are housing evacuation victims. A young couple with a 1-year-old had taken in a friend of a friend who is in her 35th week of pregnancy. “You could just hear the excitement in their voice about helping someone,” he said.
Cy-Fair had several teams of five or six workers serving yesterday, going to homes, ripping out carpet and sheetrock, and using squeegees to remove water from houses. There are are five teams out working today. Fifty people have volunteered to serve in this way.
“It’s going to be a long, long recovery,” he said, “but you love seeing the church out in the community being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Smith said Cy-Fair has arranged to partner with IDES (International Disaster Emergency Service—see below) to house worker teams and serve as a staging area in the months ahead. He said Cy-Fair, which he classifies as an urban church (though it is just outside Houston’s city limits), will be able to house supplies and lodge these teams because it has a gym, showers, and a commercial-grade kitchen facility. “This effort will be going on for a year or more.”
The church has been receiving calls from churches in Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere, all offering to help.
And as for Cy-Fair’s building, it survived the flood with only very minor water issues.
Northside Christian Church in Spring, Texas (north of Houston), has a page on its website entitled “Ways to Help.” In addition to a volunteer signup system, there is a list of Houston area shelters and telephone numbers to call for assistance.
Northside has been listing items that are needed via Facebook, and also arranging for volunteers to help at the church and among its neighbors. A post Tuesday afternoon said, “Despite the continued rain you guys have showed up in a major way! Thank you so much to all our volunteers and for the lines of people that are coming and donating to families. We are accepting donations until 5 today and then 9-5 pm through Friday.” Earlier in the day, the site indicated there were enough volunteers through today, but more were needed for Thursday and Friday.
Creekside Christian Fellowship in Needville, Texas (southwest of Houston), sent out a plea for volunteers via Facebook on Monday; later that afternoon it wrote, “If you know people in need of shelter tonight please send them to Creekside in Needville.”
Early Tuesday, Creekside wrote, “Tired of being stuck in your house wishing there was something you could do to help those so dramatically impacted by this storm? GREAT! We need YOU!!! . . . Have donations to drop off? Bring them by! Blankets, towels, clothes, pillows, food (Creekside doesn’t have a cooking kitchen so we only have you guys to help get these people fed!) . . . Share this post!”
Hours later, at about midday Tuesday, the church wrote, “Needville, you guys are awesome! For right now we don’t need any more supplies or food. Please take them to other shelters until further notice! We want everyone to be taken care of in this time of need.”
The church has since updated its website with information about its relief efforts, along with how to volunteer and how to donate.
Donations to help with Creekside’s hurricane relief efforts can be made to Creekside Christian Fellowship, P.O. Box 1129, Needville, TX 77461.
Click here to read a news story with Creekside senior pastor Greg Garcia about how his family and his church are coping with the flood.
Current—A Christian Church in Katy, Texas, has set up a relief page on its website where people can make financial donations for relief efforts. Of the money collected, 100 percent will go to relief efforts.
We’ve been in contact with executive pastor Nathan Rymer and posted a story about the church’s situation Monday, along with an update late Tuesday afternoon.
International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES) is working to assist churches and people in the storm region. The Indiana-based Christian church/church of Christ organization has been helping in situations like this since the early 1970s.
IDES has been contacting Christian churches in the Houston area, said executive director Rick Jett. IDES has received confirmations from Cy-Fair Christian Church (Houston) and Current—A Christian Church (Katy, TX) that they are willing to partner in relief efforts. Disaster coordinator Kit Gentis will be traveling to Texas early next week.
Disaster clean-up kits and care kits have been shipped to the area. Storage sheds will be shipped to the area beginning next week. As the water levels go down, IDES expects to have many more leads on the kinds of help that is needed. Financial donations are greatly needed. Individuals may give online at www.ides.org or can mail a gift to IDES, P.O. Box 379, Noblesville, IN 46061. Check writers may designate their gift by writing “U.S. Disaster” or “Hurricane Relief” in the memo line.
Lifeline Christian Mission, Westerville, OH, will be working with churches and organizations to distribute shelf-stable rice and bean meals to the area impacted by rains and flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey. Donations enable volunteers to pack these meals. For example, a $10 donation provides for 50 meals, and a $100 donation provides for 500 meals. Or a church or community group could host a meal-pack event. Learn more at www.lifeline.org.
The SolomonFoundation is accepting donations to help a few local churches in our movement rebuild their facilities, and help the devastated families affected in their congregations. All of the proceeds will go to Hurricane Harvey relief, and TSF will pay all associated fees.
Jim Nieman is managing editor of Christian Standard.
(Top Photo: Texas National Guard soldiers help Houston, Texas, residents leave their home flooded by Hurricane Harvey. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Lt. Zachary West of the Texas National Guard.)