La. churches show 'big thanks' with Harvey response
DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (BP) -- After hearing his pastor share about the need for ministry for Hurricane Harvey victims in early September, Mickey Watson felt led to form a team with other members of Amite Baptist Church.
For several weeks, teams from the Louisiana church in Denham Springs traveled to Texas, cooking meals, gutting homes and delivering supplies, like many other Southern Baptist churches and teams from around the country. Volunteers from Amite spent two days working on homes in Beaumont, Texas.
Watson said the effort was a way for their church to bless the people of Texas, much like they were blessed when teams came to help in the recovery process last year following historic flooding in south Louisiana.
"Over half of the people that traveled from Amite to Texas to assist with the cleanup flooded last year and our hearts knew exactly what these people were going through," Watson told the Baptist Message. "We just loved being able to show the love that God showed us and to return a big thanks.
"Our ministry last year lasted a little over two weeks and we fed more than 16,000 meals basically from my driveway and delivered them daily to neighborhoods and gave them away at the church," he noted. "We realized how much a plate of fresh food meant. We were also able to love on those in need. If people will ever do this kind of relief work, they won't hesitate to serve."
A team from New Covenant Community Church worked in the same area this past weekend, gutting out homes in nearby Vidor, Texas.
Todd Whirley, pastor of New Covenant Community Church in Denham Springs, said at one home his team installed a water heater for a widow. This was the same home the team gutted out on a trip the previous weekend.
During some of the trips to Texas, the teams have stayed at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont. For any team wanting to come, Whirley said they have a place to sleep, shower and do laundry, and they provide breakfast, sack lunches and supper at no cost.
Despite the difficult memories caused by their travels to the impacted areas in Texas, Whirley said they were more than willing to come and be the hands and feet of Christ to others in need.
"We could not stand by and let these folks suffer so we have come to do what we can," he said. "We are honored to pray with and for these folks who are digging through debris piles for anything precious that can be salvaged. We've seen the body of Christ rise up yet again to send people, supplies, money and hope to flood survivors here in Texas. We are overjoyed when we leave a house completely finished and swept clean.
"Homeowners have broken down in tears here when they see their homes cleaned and no longer smelling like sewerage because at least that overwhelming burden has been borne by others they didn't know," he said. "That's what the body of Christ does so well, shoulder the burden of people unable to shoulder it themselves. God is here among the debris piles because His children are here with wash basins and towels around their waists to serve others and glorify Him. Powerful ministry opportunities await those who will come here and help."
Not far to the east, Pine Ridge Baptist Church in Melder ministered in the towns of Vidor and Orangefield, Texas.
Pastor Jason Townley said the scene of debris piled high, long lines formed to receive food and water and homes severely damaged was difficult to see.
But Townley was encouraged that amid the destruction hope was shown by countless Christians coming in to give a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. The team delivered supplies collected by their church, cooked for residents and gutted out homes in the community.
Though they drove two-and-a-half hours one way every day, Townley said it was a minor inconvenience compared to what the people in Orangefield are enduring.
"We all agreed there's not enough money to pay us to do this type work. We do this to show the love of Jesus Christ ... wherever we go," Townley said. "Harvey has opened up homes to share Jesus that otherwise we would have never gotten into from two-and-a-half hours away."
Townley said time after time, he has met homeowners who lost all of their possessions yet displayed a sense of hope, such as one man whose home received five feet of water inside.
"He has nothing left in his home but he has faith God is going to help him get back going," Townley said. "I'm so proud of our compassion team. They are hardworking people who work so well with all we meet and are just a blessing to work with. It's such a needed ministry in these areas that I pray many churches will continue working here."
According to North American Mission Board statistics, the response by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams to areas impacted by Harvey through Sunday, Sept. 17, teams has resulted in 1,072,805 meals served, 369 chainsaw jobs completed, 316 homes gutted out, 18,033 bottles of water distributed and nine teddy bears given out to children at the various sites. Of the 1,114 people who have heard the Gospel, 203 have accepted Christ.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information in how you can help, contact your state Baptist convention or learn more at about NAMB's Send Relief efforts at sendrelief.net.