Getting involved with the clean out and cleanup
By Heath Ferguson (Woodforest, Houston)
Hurricane Harvey was the storm that would not go away. Even one month after the storm that dropped the greatest amount of rainfall in the history of the United States we are still dealing with the aftermath. Nearly 65 inches of rain fell over the course of four days leaving behind flood waters and over-filled reservoirs that have wreaked havoc on southeast Texas. When the Lord opened the literal flood gates on our state he also opened the floodgates of need to follow. This is when and where the churches of the Houston area stepped in and went into the most distressed neighborhoods.
Woodforest Free Will Baptist Church got involved with the clean out and cleanup effort immediately following the storm. Just days after the skies cleared a group from Phoenix, AZ drove in with a 56-foot horse trailer full of supplies totaling 16,000 pounds (blowing 4 tires along the way) and dropped them off for distribution. Within hours of arrival every bottle of water and cleaning supply and food item was distributed to local shelters from Montgomery, TX down to Cuero, TX. We had crews go into River Plantation, the hardest hit neighborhood in Montgomery County, where 450 of the 1300 homes were destroyed. Sheetrock and insulation soaked by floodwaters and laden with e-coli and other bacteria and mold lined the streets at a height no less than 8 feet tall. For blocks these walls of waste stood on both sides of the streets intermingled with the lives of the thousands of people effected. Children’s toys, clothes, TVs, furniture, appliances, each piece was a reminder that these are not just houses, they are homes filled with love and life.
We asked the inevitable question, “what can we do to help?” The answers came to us without our needing to search. Money started coming in as churches took up offerings. So, we opened a Hurricane Relief Fund and went to social media to ask for $5,000. Very quickly the amount went over $11,000, so we went back to social media and raised the goal to $15,000. When the amount eclipsed $20,000 we sat back, did not ask for another amount, and let God bring in what we needed to help. To date, God has seen fit to send over $60,000 to our Hurricane Relief Fund and every single dollar sent has and will be used to help the victims of the flood. We have purchased insulation, sheet rock, chemicals and bleach hotel rooms, meals, and gift cards, all to be used by these families.
One family we met by nothing less than a divine appointment. My wife and I were checking on the home of a member of our church who had not been able to make it back to her home because of the rising Spring Creek. We went to the area to find the creek had receded to around 2 feet over the street level. Just then a truck pulled up and others whose homes were on the other side jumped in the back. We joined them for the short ride over the creek. Every person was nervous, not knowing what they would find on the other side. We met a couple headed to their home for the first time. They knew they were flooded but did not know the extent. As my wife and I checked on our member’s home they were to their own home. After about 10 minutes we joined them and walked through their disjointed life as they shed tears. They have no family in the US. They have no church. At that moment, they had no home. That’s the moment that God sent us to them. Our church has put them in a hotel, cleared their home of damaged furniture and sheetrock, fed them, and showed them the love of God. Shortly after our meeting with them the wife, who has worked tirelessly since this storm began, said “we have been looking for a church family and now we have one.” Interesting comment seeing that they have never stepped foot in our church. However, church is not confined to the walls of a building. This flood has forced us to take God’s church to the community. The husband sent me a text saying, “every day I thank God for that short ride in the truck across the creek.” This is what it looks like when the church leaves the confines of its building…and God has pushed us outside of His building and into His fields.
There are several stories that we have just like this one that end in our meeting and helping a family in their very worst moment. God opened doors and hearts and in this tragedy His name will be lifted high. When this all started God began to speak to me about what He wanted us to do. It did not involve a hurricane relief fund or helping families, it involved showing His love to people in need. So, in obedience to His word to me, I told our church we are going out to show God’s love. We are not building a church or inviting people to come. That is not the point of this. The whole reason for our existence in not to build churches, which is an odd thing for a church planter to say. The whole reason for our existence is to lift high the name of the Lord. God will take care of the rest. If we will be who God desires for us to be than He will build His church as a side effect of our obedience. God’s name has been glorified, not on the backs and sweat of Woodforest Church, but on the goodness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We just happened to be in this place at this time.
Pray for our church as we continue to help financially and physically that God will continue to open door spiritually. We have already seen hardened hearts become softened and the seed we are planting are starting to grow. The skeptical world is allowing us an opportunity to serve and it is being used by the Holy Spirit to speak to hearts. Even in the flood, when so much is lost and lives are devastated, God has a plan. We desire to be a part of that plan, to bring glory to the one who who’s never seen a storm to wet or a flood so deep that He could not save every person.