HUFFMAN—Soon after darkness fell and waters rose as Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Christians came together to offer Texans a glimmering beacon of hope.
Mike Martin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Huffman, made several visits around his community before heavy rains hit. He stopped at the local volunteer fire department and told them the church wanted to help. Within an hour, the fire department contacted him and asked if the church could be used as a shelter.
Church rallies to meet needs
By the time the storms arrived in Huffman, northeast of Houston, church members had gathered blankets, water and clothing for the hundreds of people from their community who showed up to the church doors seeking shelter from the storm.
By Sunday night, Aug. 27, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department made First Baptist in Huffman into not only a shelter, but also a temporary headquarters.
The water continued to flow for the next 24 hours, as volunteer firefighters and civilians began going into neighborhoods to rescue people from their homes and bring them to the church.
“People were coming off of boats, waist-deep in water,” Martin recalled.
Along with hundreds of people, the church also sheltered about 100 animals. Even though the church building sustained significant damage from the weather, members did not give a second thought to helping others.
“People needed the help, the safety and the hope that our church gave them on those first nights. There was such a great need, that we had to be a shelter,” Martin said. “God’s people responded to our needs from all over the country.”
First Baptist received supplies and assistance from other churches as the congregation provided neighbors food and shelter.
“Those first two nights, I watched as hero after hero did their part—whether it was cooking in the kitchen or going out into the waters,” Martin 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.”
Serving as a distribution center
After four days as a shelter, the church began transporting the flood victims to a stadium in Houston that offered better facilities and more resources. At that point, First Baptist transitioned from a shelter to a distribution center.
First Baptist continued to feed hot meals to people in their community. Meanwhile, as a drive-through distribution center for bottled water, groceries and cleaning supplies, the congregation served about 500 cars a day for two weeks.
In mid-September, a care team from the church went out into the community, surveying 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,” he said. “We can’t remodel Houston, but we can help them with labor and materials as we’re able to.”
While all of this is happening, Martin and volunteers from his congregation worked feverishly to refurbish their church from the storm’s damage in order to get their Sunday school program up and running again.
Showing love and sharing faith
First Baptist is working not only to help rebuild the town, but also the people living in it. Church leaders held countless spiritual conversations with storm survivors, many of whom made new or renewed commitments to Christ.
Clearly, God was making something beautiful out of a disaster, Youth Pastor Josh Campbell observed.
“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,” he said.
First Baptist in Huffman did not wait for instructions or direction to meet needs in their community. Instead, as they made themselves available, God rescued lives and saved souls through their efforts. The tragedy became a platform for the church to tell people about the love of Jesus.
“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,” Martin said.
“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.”
For more information on how to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey, visit http://texasbaptists.org/harvey-response.