As flood waters rose, this church sprung into action.
By Randy Puckett (Eagle Heights, Richmond)
I want to say thank you so much for everyone who has been involved in meeting the needs here in the Houston area. Knowing you were praying and standing with us was an amazing source of strength! I want you know what has come of both your financial and prayer support during this time.
It all began on August 27. I was busy canceling Sunday worship. On Saturday, I had thought we might be okay. We’ve had tropical storms before, and we had stayed high and dry, so I wasn’t worried. But we woke up to a flooded street on Sunday morning, something we had never, ever seen before. We couldn’t make it to church, even if we wanted to hold a service. With worship canceled, my wife Shelly and I sat down to watch the news, as things got crazier and crazier all over the Houston area. All the while, the rain just kept falling. Even when there were hours with no rainfall, the water level in our streets stayed the same, or kept rising, never falling. I think that is when we knew we were in trouble.
As Shelly and I watched the news, we both felt God moving us to try to use His building to help the community, but we did not know how to do that. However, we did know the church property was built on high ground. We decided that I would reach out to our local Constable Wayne Thompson (a member of Eagle Heights Church), and ask if he thought the community could be helped if EHC was opened as a shelter. Despite the mad rush he was in the midst of, protecting and evacuating people in our community, he answered me immediately: “Yes!” I told him that we would open EHC as a shelter. He asked how soon we would be ready to go. I told him 1 hour, 30 minutes. He basically said, “get ready for a whole lot of people!”
My neighbor is a get-it- done-no-matter-what guy who attends our church, and he said he would help me. So we walked to the end of our street. There he and I jumped the fence ,and walked a few yards to the road, where we met another church member, who had driven from a dry area to pick us up. We got to EHC, and within an hour and 15 minutes of our decision to open as a shelter, people started arriving. We had no food, no clothes, no towels, no bedding, no supplies, and no idea what was about to happen next! But we also had no idea how clearly God was about to supernaturally show up in amazing ways! And further, it would become just as abundantly clear that He was all we really needed.
We opened thinking that we would simply be a staging area. We knew that people would
need a safe place to escape the storm for a few hours. They’d need food to eat and probably a way to dry off. They could get online at EHC to make motel reservations, and get updates from the local stations playing on our TV. Maybe EHC would be a rendezvous point where family could come pick them up. As people began to arrive we realized that the people who came were facing mandatory evacuations. Roads were closing each hour. These people needed a place not only to get dry for a few hours, but a place to stay safe throughout the night and even into the next few days. It was all so uncertain! We began processing and checking people in. I was fearful that our shelter might feel like it was a Hurricane Katrina/Superdome situation. I wanted them cared for well, but mostly, I wanted them safe.
Starting at 12:45PM Monday until we officially closed the shelter on Friday afternoon, we
served 250-275 evacuees from our community. Along with them came their 60-65 dogs, cats, and one bird! I was feeling more and more like Noah by the hour, what with all the animals and the rain that just wouldn’t stop! That first night, we housed and provided for approximately 200 people in 2 common areas. It was incredible! The next day, we only needed to house and provide for about 125 people. The final two nights, we had only around 35 people each night. I say “only,” but clearly it was 35 more people than we ever expected to house as guests at what we began to call “Chateau de Eagle Heights.” However, we know that during the first few days, when the anxiety here was sky-high; when people were so uncertain that their family would be together and safe; when the need for basic supplies, food, and shelter was absolutely critical; we were able to be there for them!
I cannot tell you how many calls, texts, and donations I received from fellow churches and pastors. God used all of you to meet needs here both DURING and AFTER the storm (more on that later). It allowed us to focus on serving rather than worrying how the needs would be supplied. It was an absolute whirlwind, but it was truly incredible! I cannot even express how amazing it was to see our church “being the church” in our community during those days. The ways that God met needs was nothing short of supernatural!
I could speak on this for hours, but if you come back tomorrow, I will take a moment to relate just one story that shows His glory.
Both have videos, pics, stories, and information, and from people who were displaced and stayed in the shelter.
VIDEO: “Harvey 1” and “Harvey 2” are 2 different videos that we have online. Access them through the webpage or the FaceBook Page timeline.
PICTURES: Access pictures at eagleheightschurch.org/hurricane-harvey-relief/
PODCASTS: If you are interested in the happenings of the shelter or the reactions of the
people who were served by the shelter, you can check out EHC’s “Shelter Stories” podcast
from September 17, 2017.