HULL—When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast last year, rain began falling in Hull—an unincorporated community about 40 miles northwest of Beaumont—on Friday, Aug. 25.
By Sunday night, water began to invade homes and buildings, compromising the town’s safety. The rain didn’t stop until Wednesday, and the community was paralyzed until Thursday. Fear and heartache remained long after.
Like many congregations in similar circumstances, First Baptist Church in Hull immediately began to respond to needs throughout Liberty County.
“We were focusing on people in their homes here,” Pastor John Guedry said. “When people who already in the last days of August didn’t know if they would be able to afford rent for September 1 and didn’t know where their last few days of groceries would come from, we wanted to keep these realities in mind and at the forefront of what we were doing.”
First Baptist coordinated numerous volunteers, not only from their own congregation, but also from several other churches around the community.
“Broken relationships from years past went by the wayside, and people have jumped back in to work hand in hand with us,” Guedry said.
In the first week after the hurricane hit, First Baptist served more than 1,700 hot meals and distributed 500 loads of supplies all in a town of 600 people. Churches around the state, food vendors, willing individuals and organizations helped make the ministry possible.
Green Acres provides assistance
However, First Baptist needed assistance making repairs to its own building. Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, three hours away, provided the help, working through Texas Baptists’ Church2Church partnership.
“I got a call from Dale Pond, missions minister at Green Acres, and he said they had contacted Texas Baptists to find a church that they could partner with,” Guedry said.
Representatives of the Church2Church partnership office put Green Acres in touch with Ernest Dagohoy, the Baptist General Convention of Texas area representative for Southeast Texas, who already had visited First Baptist in Hull.
“Dagohoy walked through our facilities and was able to tell Green Acres what we were doing in our community, and it fit what they were looking for,” Guedry said.
“Pond contacted me, and then the next day, I got a phone call from David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres, confirming that they would be partnering with us. They collected information, photos and stories from me. They showed a presentation to their church making the partnership official.”
A few weeks later, 20 volunteers from Green Acres arrived in Hull to help First Baptist distribute remaining donated items, assess the damage of both the church and the community, and begin making plans.
That same weekend, students from Green Acres’ college ministry helped finish demolition work at the church.
Encouragement in a dark time
A few weeks later, volunteers from the student ministry and singles ministry at Green Acres helped hold a Second Chance Initiative event for the community that included bounce houses and face painting for children and an outdoor praise service. The volunteers from Green Acres focused on both the physical and spiritual needs of community members in Hull.
“Things were looking pretty deep and dark there for a little while,” Guedry said. “The willingness of Green Acres was, if anything, the encouragement to keep pressing on.”
Once demolition was completed at First Baptist, Green Acres sent experienced construction volunteers to Hull.
Green Acres also moved its shower unit to the parking lot at First Baptist to serve the needs of volunteers and others working in the community.
The church members at First Baptist in Hull “have been a blessing to work with,” said Andria Horton, missions special projects coordinator at Green Acres.
“Every team returns home with glowing reports on the hospitality of the church members, who provide guidance and meals for the team members,” Horton said.
The Bible commands Christians to care for fellow believers and support them in times of need, she stressed.
“It is a blessing that we can give back in our time of surplus and help rebuild Hull into a stronger community,” she said.
Based on his church’s experience, Guedry emphasized the importance of churches being proactive about disaster relief and recovery.
“There are going to always be crises, disasters and needs somewhere near you and somewhere around the world,” he said. “Begin now thinking of the terms of the basic Christian responsibility to respond—to let no one in need go without when we have much. If we have something, we can’t let someone else go without it. Be ready and active and have a plan in place.”