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Houston association office destroyed, Baptists rally to assist flood victims

HOUSTON (BP)–This summer will seem like an eternity to the staff of Union Baptist Association in Houston, said director of missions Tom Billings. Tropical Storm Allison has completely destroyed their offices.

To make matters worse, Billings found out June 12 the association wasn’t insured against the flood.

“It will cost about $250,000 to replace everything,” he told Baptist Press. “All of it has been totally destroyed.”

He said the Baptist General Convention of Texas has already pledged its support to the association and plans to send out a letter to all the Baptist churches in Texas asking for monetary support. In the meantime, Billings said the association’s task is a simple, but challenging one.

“We just have to start all over,” he said.

The damage was a result of Tropical Storm Allison. The storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain on Houston and a reported 20-plus inches of rain on parts of Louisiana. As of June 12, authorities reported 20 fatalities, including 70-year-old Thomas Lee Johnson, a Houston-area minister whose denominational affiliation has been listed in media reports to date.

The association is maintaining a list of damaged churches on its Internet site at www.ubahouston.org, so that interested churches and individuals can know who’s in need, reported Karen Simons, an associational consultant in communications and missions. Among the flooded churches identified thus far are First Baptist, Deer Park, and New Life Community Church, the latter being uninsured for the three feet of water sustained.

“We may not have a building but the associational staff is still at work being the networker between needs and resources,” Simons said.

Floodwaters measuring five feet rose up around the Union Baptist Association building over the weekend, putting tremendous pressure on the plate glass windows that lined it. When the glass could no longer stand the pressure, the windows burst, sending a torrent of water through the building, carrying with it furniture, computers, fax and copying equipment and office supplies, shooting them out of the building and into a nearby ravine.

“It pulled everything off the walls, picked up almost everything in the office, and then pushed it out,” Billings said. “The only thing we’ve got left is about 20 reams of paper. That’s it.

“The most important part of the office is still left though — the staff,” he added. “I praise God we haven’t lost any of them.”

As the water slowly recedes in other parts of Texas and Louisiana, Baptist workers wait eagerly with cleanup teams and supplies.

In Houston’s medical district, the main disaster relief unit of Texas Baptist Men is preparing daily meals for at least 15,000 people.

In Louisiana, three kitchens were in operation June 12. Christ Baptist Church in Houma will prepare meals for those hardest hit in the state, and plans to provide food for at least 1,600 people per day for as long as necessary. At Williams Boulevard Baptist Church in Kenner, La., outside of New Orleans, workers plan to prepare meals for approximately 500 people per day, and in Lafayette, workers are preparing the same amount of meals at First Baptist Church of Broussard.

Buddy Day, men’s ministry and special missions director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said cleanup has already begun in Lafayette, La., and Baptists will be involved in those efforts.

“All the rivers haven’t crested just yet,” he said, “and there have been some new floods in some areas. Once the water has completely gone, we’ll get in there.”

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