Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief continues in Golden Triangle area with churches at forefront
November 3rd, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
VIDOR AND BEAUMONT—“This feels like Ike and Katrina,” Christopher Moody, lead pastor of Beaumont’s First Baptist Church told the TEXAN at the Golden Triangle Baptist Network (GTBN) leadership meeting Oct. 5 at First Baptist Vidor.
Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented onslaught has stretched traditional Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) resources, prompting Golden Triangle area churches to lead in coordinating work in that region.
“We have areas where we have not been able [as of Oct. 5] to send in [SBTC DR clean up and mud-out] teams yet. There’s not enough. We’ve got several areas where only the local church has been able to work their area,” said Daniel White, SBTC DR task force member and pastor of First Baptist Kountze, who helps regionally coordinate both the SBTC DR response and the work of other volunteer groups. By the time SBTC mud-out units arrived in the area the churches had done so much work that the units were no longer needed.
SBDR feeding and laundry/shower teams from Texas and across the nation deployed throughout Southeast Texas in support of church volunteer groups.
“[The churches] had to take the helm,” Moody said, praising churches that sent workers. “They came to us. We’re on the back end of the disaster and the back end of even the work.”
Moody said Beaumont’s First Baptist lost electricity and water for two weeks but was otherwise undamaged by the storm. Soon after the hurricane, churches began to call to offer help.
“The network of friends and the cooperative heart and spirit of Southern Baptists has leveraged a lot of resources to our church,” Moody said. “It’s amazing how you can go 10, 20 years of making friendships and building relationships and that all comes to bear at a time like this.”
So many offers of help came—such as the call from Tim Skaggs, pastor of Brownwood’s Coggin Avenue Baptist Church—that Moody and staff decided to “share the love” with LaBelle Baptist Church, where Pastor Sonny Hathaway found himself coordinating DR efforts in southwest Jefferson County. With several other teams coming to help FBC Beaumont, Moody sent the Coggin group south.
Hathaway confirmed that while no official SBDR teams had made it to his area—including the communities of LaBelle, Hamshire and Fannett—DR work was occurring thanks to volunteers from churches around the state and as far away as North Carolina.
LaBelle Baptist was undamaged by Harvey and sheltered some 100 community members during the storm. Homes a few miles away took on six feet of water. The pastor’s home suffered wind-blown water damage.
Hathaway said the county commissioner estimated LaBelle was about 50 percent flooded, Fannett up to 60 percent, and Hamshire, 70 percent.
Fort Worth’s Normandale Baptist has adopted LaBelle Baptist in the SBTC’s Adopt-a-Church program, Hathaway confirmed. See related article on Adopt-a-Church.
Like Moody, Hathaway said that pastors contacted him personally: “People I’ve known or people who have known people I’ve known.”
A team from western North Carolina arrived at LaBelle the same week as a second group from Coggin. The North Carolinians were friends of a friend who serves with the IMB, Hathaway said, and plan to return with teams to do construction work.
For a church of about 100 active members, receiving outside help is a heady and humbling experience that Hathaway is sharing with SBTC churches in neighboring towns.
A Coggin team worked on the home of Leonard Lauve on Oct. 5. Over the weekend, when 21 youth and adults joined the DR effort, Hathaway divided the group, sending some to make food deliveries and perform door-to-door surveys, and others to do sheetrock work at another LaBelle home and at Ridgewood Baptist Church, Port Arthur.
LaBelle member Lauve was in Dallas when the storm hit but said his area experienced 18 inches of rain in an hour and a half. His eyes teared up as the Coggin team covered gaping holes in his roof with plywood, tore out damaged flooring, and removed nails from studs. Lauve had lived in the house since 1971.
Coggin’s two groups totaled 37, with 11 serving the last week of Sept. and the rest the following week. With other church teams, they formed network of mutual assistance that, for now, has pastors at the forefront as incident managers.
Coggin associate pastor Bill Allen commented that Hathaway told him the storm had opened doors to sharing the gospel, the tangible help resulting in more spiritual conversations with residents in the last four weeks than in the previous four years.
Coggin pastor, Tim Skaggs, who served during the first week, said the experience unified members of his church team: “Nothing bonds you like rolling up your sleeves and working together.”
Skaggs also praised the “amazing perseverance” of residents who had “lost everything” during Harvey.
White praised Hathaway and LaBelle Baptist for “doing a great job” in the area.
Meanwhile, Terry Wright of FBC Vidor emphasized the importance of communication to GTBN representatives, distributing a daily report form for pastors to submit numbers of work orders and completed jobs so that volunteers and equipment could be tracked through the GTBN.
In a massive event like Harvey, it takes a village of churches to help a village recover.