Churches adopt churches in Harvey’s wake
October 15th, 2017 / By: Morgan Collier / comments
After seeing the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention knew they needed to generate more help for those affected by the storm. In the aftermath, the convention launched an Adopt-A-Church program that allows SBTC churches beyond Harvey's path to "adopt" churches within the affected areas.
The type of help a participating church provides depends on the adopted church’s needs. Some have sent mud-out teams to help clean up the physical mess the storm left. Many churches are financially burdened; others might need supplies or materials for rebuilding.
"God is proving His faithfulness in new ways, as the Body of Christ mobilizes to meet immediate and long-term needs," Tony Wolfe, SBTC director of pastor and church relations, said. "He is doing this through the work of his church, turning tragedy into gospel opportunity."
LIGHTENING THE BURDEN
Rising water did not take a toll at Forest Oaks Baptist Church of Houston. Instead, rain water seeped into the building, down its walls and onto the floor below through wind-damaged roofs. All in all, Pastor Kevin Barefield thought the church had fared well compared to its flooded neighbors.
But then talks with the insurance company revealed the most significant damage would be to their modest bank account. The deductible for roof and water damage could be as high as $36,000—more than the church could afford to pay.
Before the storm hit, the congregation was trying to find $30,000 to replace a failing air conditioner in the sanctuary.
As Barefield wondered how God would provide for the repairs, Stan Britton, pastor of The Church at Buffalo Creek in Rockwall, heard about the Adopt-A-Church program while attending an unrelated meeting at the SBTC offices. He immediately registered his congregation.
“We wanted to lighten the burden for them so they don’t miss out on ministry,” Britton said.
As Barefield awaits word from the insurance company, he has already heard the best news—Forest Oaks Baptist Church is not alone.
“There was a peace in my heart once I knew people were praying for us, coming alongside us,” Barefield said.
HELPING HANDS WILL TRAVEL
Although floodwaters did not affect the church building of LaBelle Baptist Church in Beaumont, rising water did wreak havoc on many church members and their neighbors. During the storm, LaBelle Pastor Sonny Hathaway and a few others went around the community to rescue families trapped in their homes, bringing them to the church building for a safe place to stay.
After the waters receded, it became evident that many homes were damaged and the need for help was great. Hathaway spoke with elders from Normandale Baptist Church in Fort Worth about the church adoption ministry. Soon, a team was traveling from Fort Worth to Beaumont to assist.
"I was looking for a way to physically help people," Sarah Guenther, Grace Baptist Church member and a mud-out volunteer, said. "I'm a go-getter and I like to go do things with my hands, so this was a really great opportunity to actually help people first-hand, talk with them and give them a few words of encouragement too."
Normandale partnered with Grace Baptist Church and Solid Rock Church of Fort Worth to send a team of 28 volunteers to help clean out homes in LaBelle. During their time there, they were able to work in 16 homes.
"We have been very blessed through the work of God's servants who have come out here to help rebuild our community," Hathaway said.
SAN ANTONIANS ‘CAN DO’
The Korean Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, situated among modest houses a quarter mile off South Padre Island Drive, suffered numerous storm-related damages. San Antonio’s University Baptist Church was ready to assist. So Pastor Randy Bales and the church administrator, Frank Corte, traveled to Corpus the week of Sept. 4 to assess the Korean church’s needs, meeting with Pastor Wyun Ra and a church deacon.
"We went to see if what they need is what we can do,” Corte said.
Bales called the visit with the Korean pastor “great,” adding, “the damage they sustained from Hurricane Harvey was minimal, but they have very few resources to do the work needed. They took care of the needs of their congregation first.”
At press time, University Baptist had plans to repair a downed fence and a damaged storage building, help identify sources of water leakage and help with plumbing issues, pastors Bale and Wyun Ra said.
DELUGED BUT NOT DOWNTRODDEN
The flooding from Harvey left Ridgewood Baptist Church of Port Arthur with water three feet high in their sanctuary, gymnasium and in three of four parsonages. The water inside Ridgewood stood for five days after water pumps in Beaumont stopped working.
Dustin Guidry, Ridgewood’s pastor, said church members entered the property four days after the storm via canoe, but it was a week later before a vehicle could drive up. On Sunday, Sept. 3, Guidry and several members were able to access the property and start the cleanup.
Michael Criner, pastor of First Baptist Church Bellville, heard of Ridgewood’s plight and his church decided to adopt Ridgewood, sending teams to help in the cleanup.
"On Labor Day, FBC Bellville sent a team of 35 people who took off at 4 a.m., got over here at 7 a.m. and stayed here all day to help us with cleanup and recovery," Guidry said. "We are very grateful for their help, and we joked with them often because they were actually laboring on Labor Day."
First Baptist Bellville not only sent work teams to Port Arthur but also to Rockport and other storm-damaged towns .
"The Lord keeps providing workers and servants to come in, and with our volunteers that were able to come work for 10 to 12 hours a day, we were able to fully clean out the sanctuary within the week," Guidry said. "We were actually able to meet in our building the following Sunday with an abbreviated service."
In Port Arthur, "this has definitely brought the local churches together as a whole, working together to get the community up and running as fast as possible," Guidry added.
—Additional reporting by Jane Rogers and Bonnie Pritchett