Churches offer warm welcome to Texans hit by winter storms

In Conroe, Under Over Fellowship has been providing shelter to more 60 people since Feb. 14, when the city contacted the church about opening as a warming center.

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As a winter storm left millions of Texans without electricity in below-freezing temperatures for hours—sometimes even days—some Texas Baptist churches opened their doors to provide warmth and food to affected individuals.

‘So that no one would have need’

Community Missionary Baptist Church in DeSoto opened its facilities as a registered secondary shelter and emergency rescue center.

The church continues to provide food, showers and shelter to anyone in need, including families whose homes are without electricity and the local homeless population.

To comply with COVID-19 safety protocols, the church has placed families in their own individual rooms when possible.

Despite the overwhelming amount of need the church faces, Lynn Harper, young adults pastor at Community Missionary Baptist Church, praised God for giving the church the resources to continue serving people.

He explained that community and service always has been at the heart of the congregation’s mission, as led by Pastor Oscar Epps.

“The root of our ministry is community-style fellowship, like Acts 2, which says, ‘so that none would have need.’ So for us, this service is not a disposition that started from this snow storm, because community has always been in the forefront of our hearts and our pastor’s heart,” he said.

A place of respite and refreshment

First Baptist Church in Richardson partnered with the city to provide a warming station for the community.

Families are encouraged to come and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and coffee as they warm up and charge their devices. They may also stay the night in the activity center, where cots and blankets have been set up.

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Missions Pastor Ron Evans said the church wants to provide respite from the stress and harsh conditions many have had to endure—to be a place where people can relax and temporarily forget about their problems.

Keith Lowry, discipleship pastor at First Baptist in Richardson, explained there are families that have been without power for two days or more in below-freezing temperatures, and providing a space for warmth is essential for peoples’ health.

Whenever there are needs in the community, he said, the church follows Jesus’ command in Matthew 25:40, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

‘God allow us … to be a part of his work’

In Conroe, Under Over Fellowship has been providing shelter to more than 60 people since Feb. 14, when the city contacted the church about opening as a warming center.

Volunteers serve three meals a day to those staying at the church facilities, and they also began delivering hot meals to families and individuals in areas with no power or water, including a community of elderly residents.

Under Over Fellowship Pastor Jerry Vineyard told about an elderly woman in nearby Montgomery, who called the church to say her electricity had gone out. She was frightened that the frigid temperatures could seriously injure her and her two pets.

Vineyard was able to locate a propane heater and drove on icy roads to deliver it to her. Since then, the church has checked in on the woman daily, replacing the propane and providing hot meals for her.

“I think it is a prime opportunity for the gospel. Anytime there is a crisis, people are looking for an answer. And we have the greatest answer to any problem—Jesus,” Vineyard said. “The greatest blessing that comes from all of this is that God allows us to serve. He allows us to be a part of his work.”

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