By Jim Nieman
Dale Smith has been very pleased with the Hurricane Harvey flooding-related recovery efforts at Cy-Fair Christian Church, Houston, Texas.
“It’s been very, very busy, but it is going fantastic,” the church’s interim lead pastor said. “There are challenges, but God is just showing his favor.”
Smith cites some statistics: “157 people in the church have volunteered to help. We have 57 people out serving on 7 teams today.” Some teams are being organized to work evenings, as well. (The church averages 300 to 350 for weekend worship.)
Smith said an out-of-state minister told him in recent days that churches obviously don’t wish for disasters, “but times like this grow the church.” The church is working together, members are getting to know one another better, and the church is responding to the needs of the community.
So far, the church has received more than two dozen requests for help, and in the last day or two requests are coming in from community members and coworkers of church members.
“We’ve told our church, ‘The scope and length of this project will be as broad and long as the strength of their relationships,’” Smith said.
Cy-Fair has a facility that can house out-of-state work teams, and so it has been fielding calls and lining up help from across the country.
“We have a team coming in from Kentucky on Monday [Sept. 11],” Smith said. “An Oklahoma team is to come [Sept. 18] and build out two or three homes.”
Offers to help have come from churches in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Mississippi, among others, he said. A college group from Spokane, Washington, contacted the church and plans to come over Christmas break and help in lower-income areas.
Many of these teams are bringing their own supplies.
“A church [that contacted us] is soliciting donations from a gypsum plant in their area for sheetrock,” he said. A Cy-Fair church member is working to arrange for warehouse space to store it.
“Starting in October and moving forward we will schedule one week a month at our church for work teams to come and build out [homes].”
All that said, “IDES [International Disaster Emergency Service] will be our primary contact for buildout.”
IDES is an Indiana-based Christian church/church of Christ organization that has been helping in situations like this since the early 1970s.
The organization’s disaster response coordinator has been dispatched to Houston, said executive director Rick Jett, who will be heading to Texas soon himself.
Jett said two truckloads of storage sheds are being sent to Texas—the second truckload leaves today. The sheds are used to store personal belongings while homes are being cleaned up and restored, Jett said. Earlier, the organization sent disaster care and recovery kits to the area. (See image at the top of this article.)
IDES is working directly with or providing funds to at least six churches in the Houston area so far, he said.
Jett has been impressed with the number of work teams and volunteers throughout Texas who are coming to the aid of the Houston churches. IDES will be working with Houston churches to help coordinate teams of volunteers in future weeks and months as they are needed.
Jett said IDES “comes alongside the local church wherever they are helping, whether in the church or the community.”
The response to Harvey has been “excellent,” Jett said. As of yesterday, a $50,000 gift provided by a Georgia donor was met and matched with a total of $50,000 in smaller gifts, but more donations are needed.
“The need always exceeds the available resources,” but God is able to multiply and provide, Jett said.
And the need is continuing to grow, Jett said, as Hurricane Irma bears down on Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and then is expected to turn north and batter Florida.
Cy-Fair Christian Church’s disaster relief page is here.
Click here to make a donation to IDES
Here are some more updates about churches in the Houston area:
• Northside Christian Church, Spring, Texas (north of Houston): The church has a place on its website entitled “Ways to Give” that serves as a hub of information about giving, serving, shelters, and emergency contacts. A post on its Facebook page from Tuesday night says, “Northside has an 18 wheeler full of donations coming in tomorrow! We are in need of volunteers to help unload all of these donations.” Numerous other posts there provide a better-rounded picture of how the church is responding.
• Current—A Christian Church, Katy, Texas: The church has a donation page, a sign-up to serve page, and a “How donations are being used” page, among others. A great deal of information about the church’s efforts and response to Harvey is available on Facebook and Twitter.
• New Hope Church (a megachurch south of Houston): As of Monday, the church had cleared 100-plus houses. The church’s Twitter page offers a good picture of what’s been happening. The church has set up a “Want to Help” page that offers guidance on donations, volunteering, tools needed, and meals. The church also has set up a relief fund.
• Creekside Christian Fellowship, Needville, Texas: Via Facebook on Sept. 2, minister Greg Garcia shared various newsy items, including word that about 30 men from Colorado, Kansas, and Georgia were on their way to help. The church has a “Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts” page. Donate to relief efforts here.
Jim Nieman is managing editor of Christian Standard.