HOUSTON (BP)–Texas Baptists’ assistance to victims of Tropical Storm Allison is rising faster than floodwaters are receding.
First to rally to the aid of the 15,000-plus people affected by Allison were members of Atascocita Community Church, a new congregation that meets in Atascocita Middle School.
The school is a designated Red Cross disaster relief center, but only two Red Cross employees were able to get to the school. The Atascocita Baptist church members jumped in.
“They worked around the clock,” said Tom Billings, Union Baptist Association’s director of missions. “The rain started Tuesday; the flooding started Friday. The church set up the Red Cross center Saturday morning.”
Park Place Baptist Church and Jersey Village Baptist Church also are serving as disaster relief centers.
Texas Baptist Men’s state disaster relief unit arrived Sunday afternoon and fed 500 staff workers Sunday supper at Hermann Hospital in the Medical District, just east of the worst of the flooding.
“There’s 26 feet of water in some intersections and I’ve even heard higher figures than that,” said onsite Baptist worker Tommy Dulin. Already 60 trained disaster relief workers in five teams are onsite, he added.
Three additional feeding units were expected by 3 p.m. Monday. One more feeding unit, a child care unit and a mud-out unit are on standby. Three additional feeding units are on alert.
In Houston the morning of June 11, Texas Baptist Men provided either a bland or a regular breakfast for 1,900 people — patients and doctors. No word yet on how long the hospital feeding unit will be needed, but with telephone, electricity and gas lines out, it could be days.
“It’s a real mess,” said John Bullock, staff liaison for Texas Baptist Men. “Our communication with our teams there is really sporadic. Their cell phones aren’t working because the cell towers are out.”
“We haven’t really even started,” he added.
Bullock said the teams in Houston are on standby because the floodwaters are still receding, and not only are some areas still unreachable, but people have yet to return to their homes. When that happens, Mickey Caison, national coordinator for Southern Baptist disaster relief, said there is still much more to be done.
“We’ll be looking at ‘mud out’ and cleanup after the water recedes,” said Caison, with the North American Mission Board.
Bullock added that the Texas Baptist Men are looking at feeding thousands more after the water has left. They are running large 18-wheeler trucks into the district, which will hold more than 30,000 meals for those affected by the flooding.
Flood victims thus far have included the Union Baptist Association in Houston.
“Everything was totally destroyed,” Billings said. “It was like a washing machine in our office complex. Imagine eight-foot ceilings and five feet of water.”
Houston Baptist churches have joined in the relief effort. Second Baptist, Brookhollow Baptist and Sagemont Baptist, which were not directly affected by the flooding, are collecting donations and helping flood victims clean up their homes and retrieve possessions.
All three churches reported that some members have suffered damage.
Mary Watkins, church administrator at Brookhollow, said one church member woke up to see rain collecting in her yard, fell asleep again and woke up again to a flooded yard.
When the church member opened her front door, water up to her thighs rushed in ruining everything in her house, Watkins continued.
According to an e-mail received from Houston-area pastor Forrest Lowery, his son was caught in shoulder-high water when walking to check on his girlfriend. Just ahead he saw people stranded. They had been to a wedding; one woman was at least 80 years old. Lowery’s son and the friend with him carried the woman to his girlfriend’s house while the other family members followed.
“They all spent the night there, waiting for the rain to stop,” Pastor Lowery emailed.
In Louisiana, Baptist efforts have helped at least 185 people find shelter thus far. Baptist organizers opened another shelter in Slidell, which housed 100 people last night, and are setting up kitchen facilities in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Houma and New Orleans June 11, where Caison projects the group will feed between 5,000 and 7,000 in the state once the kitchens are up and running.
Associated Press reported today that 18 people have been killed in Texas and Louisiana as a result of the flooding, and thousands of people have been forced from their homes.
The Texas Baptist Men are in need of help. They have raised their own funds to support the disaster effort, and are asking those who can contribute to send donations to: Texas Baptist Men, 333 North Washington, Dallas, Texas, 75246.
Matt Sanders contributed to this article.