HOUSTON (BP) — One year later, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards and other SBTC leaders plan to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey with prayer and fellowship gatherings scheduled for Aug. 25-27.
Hurricane Harvey devastated the southeast coast of Texas and portions of Louisiana, dumping as much as 60 inches of rain in less than a week. Damage was estimated at more than $125 billion and one million cars were flooded beyond repair. Within days, Southern Baptist volunteers began mobilizing to meet the physical and spiritual needs of residents overwhelmed by flooding and wind.
The churches where special anniversary events will be held include Coastal Oaks Church in Rockport, First Baptist Church in Humble and Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont.
Churches impacted by Harvey “have just been through the worst thing in the world. They have nothing else to turn to, but we can give them hope in Jesus,” Frank Bailey, a SBTC Disaster Relief volunteer from Livingston, said after being deployed last year.
DR chaplains played an essential role in helping residents cope with their losses, going door-to-door through neighborhoods offering spiritual support and direction to resources. SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers distributed 445 Bibles and 526 tracts, presented the Gospel 494 times, made 1,667 spiritual contacts and recorded 135 professions of faith.
A coordinated strategy over the past year involved the SBTC Disaster Relief, Texas Relief and Texas Rebuild teams, DR units and other volunteers from 30 state Baptist conventions and the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief crews, ranging in age from 16 to 96.
Armondo Hernandez, 27, a veteran of a mud-out deployment to Nepal two years ago and on his first feeding deployment at Corpus Christi, called it “humbling” to see “older men, most over the age of 70, working not just for free but with intensity, and for no other reason than they feel they have a calling from God to serve.”
He was part of a team from First Baptist Church of Brownsville that set up the church’s water purification trailer and two mass feeding units at Annaville Baptist Church. It was there that volunteers prepared more than 70,000 meals distributed by the Red Cross to Rockport, Port Aransas and other Gulf communities.
Churches affiliated with SBTC and other state Baptist conventions adopted around 75 churches that sustained damage in the storm, helping them recover for future ministry.
First Baptist Church in Waskom, Texas, reached out to the SBTC to explore the Adopt-A-Church program and was matched with First Missionary Baptist Church of Nome, which had been severely damaged by flooding.
Other SBTC churches had helped First Missionary with immediate needs last fall, including Inglewood Baptist in Grand Prairie and Faith Memorial Baptist in Jacksonville. The joint effort over the course of six months made it possible to bring the congregation back to their church building for Easter Sunday. The place was packed.
SBTC received more than $2.8 million from individuals, organizations and Southern Baptist entities, state conventions and churches to fund recovery efforts. Nearly all the funds have been disbursed, providing $2,213,300 for grants to churches and pastors, and another $503,179 to meet other needs.
Trinity Baptist Church of Vidor, Texas, is typical of those receiving grants, having sustained three-and-a-half feet of water throughout its facilities.
“God has blessed us greatly and immensely,” pastor Marvin Fuller stated after the sanctuary and offices were restored. “We’re progressing, but patience is a virtue and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Trinity Baptist is in the early stage of the SBTC church revitalization program.
Houston Northwest Baptist Church experienced extensive flooding with three to five feet of water throughout all of its buildings except for the worship center. The children’s building was damaged so badly that it was demolished. The student building was remodeled to house nursery, special needs and elementary students while teenagers utilized a tent.
“The SBTC grant dollars are greatly appreciated and used for our ministry and rebuilding of our facilities,” noted Alan Bugg, executive pastor. “HNW is currently in the beginning stages of the remodel of the administration building and construction of a new children’s building,” reported earlier this summer.
The grant money also helped the church recoup the cost of the only drive-thru supply center in Houston.
“Families literally drove onto our campus where we had various tents with supplies. They would tell us their need and we would load their vehicles,” Bugg said.
The church got involved in mud-out for hundreds of homes, provided short-term living expenses for many families and sent crews to help in the rebuilding process. More than 1,000 bags of clothes were laundered for flood victims.
Churches of all sizes were blessed by the outpouring of support from across the country through the SBTC. From First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, to the Cambodian congregation of Metrey Phea Baptist in Houston, funds helped churches purchase supplies to rebuild damaged facilities.
Richards expressed gratitude for the generosity of Southern Baptists.
“Southern Baptist state conventions received funds from their churches to be sent for Harvey Relief,” adding that many state conventions chose to disburse those funds through the SBTC. “We are grateful for our partnership in the Gospel with our sister state conventions. They made it possible, along with the generous gifts of others, to help rebuild churches and get pastors back into their homes.”
Disaster relief volunteers from Texas were deployed 8,612 volunteer days and clocked 86,120 volunteer hours. During that time, they served 298,431 meals to first responders and victims of the hurricane. the SBTC operated 762 clean-up and recovery sites, provided care for 22 children, and facilitated 9,600 showers and 6,760 loads of laundry.
Volunteers from 30 state conventions working in the area affected by the hurricane served 2.1 million meals to first responders and evacuees, facilitated 41,000 showers, managed 26,000 loads of laundry and completed 1,942 mud-out work orders. The 529,000 volunteer hours of service by disaster relief teams from across the country is valued at $12.1 million.