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Hurricane Harvey: Woodlands Church, Houston's First Baptist Church Open Doors to Those Affected by Flooding

( [email protected] ) Aug 29, 2017 11:56 AM EDT
August 28, 2017: As Hurricane Harvey continues its path of destruction across Houston, Texas, some of the city's biggest megachurches are opening their doors to those displaced by rising floodwaters.
A mix of first responders and volunteer rescuers help evacuate people stranded by floodwaters on the outskirts of Houston off Beltway 8 on Monday. Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

As Hurricane Harvey continues its path of destruction across Houston, Texas, some of the city's biggest megachurches are opening their doors to those displaced by rising floodwaters.

In a statement posted on the official Woodlands Church Facebook page, Senior Pastor Kerry Shook announced the church has become a "staging area for boat rescue teams that are being sent all over our area to rescue flood victims who are trapped in their homes."

"Today we were also able to feed over 200 first responders as they continue to serve others. We are also distributing 1,000 meals from Chick-fil-a to first responders and emergency medical personnel who are performing rescues," she wrote.

"After the rescue phase is complete we will need everyone to volunteer for the recovery and restoration phases. We are working with county, state, and federal authorities to be ready as a staging area for teams from all over Texas. We are also in contact with hundreds of churches all over the country that are preparing teams to come here to assist Woodlands Church in our relief efforts."

Shook asked Woodlands members to pray for those affected by the disaster, volunteer "so we can quickly mobilize our teams when needed to help with recovery", and donate to flood relief at http://wc.org/hurricane.

Houston's First Baptist Church, led by Pastor Greg Matte, is also participating in relief efforts, providing food and shelter to those in need.

In a Facebook video Tuesday morning, Matte said: "We are already partnered with the North American mission board, they're sending thousands of volunteers to Houston, and we've offered our campuses to be a place of strategic staging to be able to go from there for the coming weeks to be able to make a difference...those campuses are about to fill up with volunteers, which is going to be great, and with trucks and supplies."

"It's amping up," he added. "We've had some boat rescues of elderly folks in our church...we've got people staying with people...I've been trying to call every church member that's been flooded, I can't even keep up anymore - it's all over the place."

"It's like a war zone, but God is strong," he said, adding that those who wish to help can go to www.HoustonsFirst.org.

Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, a former faith adviser to George W. Bush and pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, announced that as of Monday, his church would house those affected by another round of evacuations.

"The Kingdom Builders Center located at 6011 West Orem, Houston, Texas, 77085, is now available as an emergency shelter for residents being evacuated due to release of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs or flooding caused by the storm," he wrote. "Volunteers are also greatly appreciated. Please spread the word."

Other churches in the area have launched websites where people can request relief, sign up to volunteer, or make a donation.

However, ChristianityToday points out that there's only so much they can do right now, with many churches themselves affected by Harvey.

"For example, celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, which meets in a 16,800-seat arena, cannot open its doors to house displaced families because the church itself is inaccessible due to the flooding," notes the outlet.

Still, Osteen released a statement Monday night revealing Lakewood Church is partnering with Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham to help those in need and will continue to be a "distribution center" for those affected. 

"We want to let you know that our hearts are with each of you and your families during this difficult time. We are praying for you and we are praying for our city, and for all of those affected by the devastating flooding and rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. We love you and we love this city. And we want to help," reads a statement on the church website.

"Over the last couple of days, as the enormity of this storm was being realized, we have been working to organize relief efforts for the Houston area with our friend Franklin Graham and the disaster relief organization that he oversees, Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse has been, since it's inception, organized to respond to situations just like Hurricane Harvey, and we are grateful to be able to partner with them to provide assistance to the Houston area."

The church also provided a link for people to donate to those affected by the flood.

"We know the need is great. That much is clear. We do not yet know all the ways we can help," the statement added. "In the meantime, know that our prayers for strength and comfort for each of you will continue, as well as our prayers for God's help as we navigate the upcoming days and months together. We love you. And we are praying. Together, we will make it through this difficult time."

Officials estimate that around 30,000 people will need emergency shelters and 450,000 people will seek disaster aid. Thus far, ten people have died, dozens more injured, and over 3,000 have been rescued.   

Tags : Hurricane Harvey, Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, Hurricane Harvey update, Woodlands Church, Houston's First Baptist church