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As Harvey loomed, church prepared for town's needs
HUFFMAN, Texas (BP) -- Soon after Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas coast, pastor Mike Martin of First Baptist Church in Huffman made several visits around town, located 30 miles northeast of Houston, before the heavy rains hit the area.
He stopped at the local volunteer fire department and told them the church was available if they needed help. Within an hour, they contacted him and asked if the church could be used as a shelter.
By the time the storms arrived, First Baptist members had sprung into action. They were mobilized to gather water, blankets and clothing as several hundred people from the community arrived at the church seeking shelter from the storm. By Sunday night (Aug. 26), the Harris County Sheriff's Department made FBC Huffman into not only a shelter but also a temporary headquarters.
Harvey's record rainfall continued for the next 24 hours while volunteer firefighters and civilians went into the surrounding neighborhoods to rescue people from their homes.
"People were coming off of boats, waist deep in water," Martin recalled. "We had to take them in."
Along with the storm survivors, First Baptist also sheltered upwards of 100 animals. Though the church building had significant damage from the weather, the members maintained a focus on helping others.
"People needed the help, the safety and the hope that our church gave them on those first nights," Martin said.
"God's people responded to our needs from all over the country," he added, regarding supplies and help from other churches "as we kept the 300 people we were sheltering clothed and fed."
"Those first two nights, I watched hero after hero do their part -- whether it was cooking in the kitchen or going out into the waters," the pastor said. "I saw all denominations and races come together. It was a time of disaster and tragedy, but our community and churches and schools came together to shelter over 600 people" counting First Baptist and other locations in Huffman.
After four days of serving as a shelter, the church began transporting flood survivors to the NRG Stadium in Houston for better facilities and more resources. In transitioning to a distribution point, First Baptist continued to feed hot meals to those in their community while distributing water, groceries and cleaning supplies to upwards of 500 cars per day for two weeks.
"Currently, we have care teams that are going out into our communities and surveying all of the neighborhoods to assess the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people," Martin said.
"Since many in our community do not have flood insurance, we're partnering individual homeowners that suffered from the hurricane with willing churches to help rebuild their homes. We can't remodel Houston but we can help them with labor and materials as we're able to."
Meanwhile, Martin and his team are working to refurbish their church from the storm's damage in order to get their Sunday School program running again.
Not only is First Baptist working to help restore the town, but also the people living in it. Martin said church leaders have had countless spiritual conversations over the course of those four days, many of which led to new relationships with the Lord. Martin said it was evident the Lord was making something beautiful even out of a disaster.
Youth pastor Josh Campbell said, "Through the heartbreak and pain, everyone had this hope in the midst of despair, because of what Christ had done for them. Even through all of this, God's still good and He's going to fix things, whether that means building houses or mending relationships."
Martin noted there are "a lot of pastors right now in the Houston area that have worked tirelessly in their communities. I would encourage the churches to remember these ministers and remember their churches in prayer. The love of God's people here in Texas for me and my church is evident just by the outpouring of people reaching out. I just want to say thank you to Texas Baptists and my friends."