by Steve Larson, OPC Regional Disaster Response Coordinator, Houston, Texas
Unprecedented Opportunity for Outreach
Since Hurricane Harvey struck Southwest Texas, the OPC congregations in the Houston region – Cornerstone OPC, Providence OPC, and the Good Shepherd Bible Study, a church-planting work of Cornerstone OPC – have been busy with relief and recovery efforts for member families who were impacted, as well as for families in the community at large. This disaster has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity for outreach and ministry within the Houston region, by showing the compassion of Jesus in very tangible ways, in the midst of oppressive tragedy and tribulation.
Together we have entered homes and businesses inundated by flooding to tear out and clear away ruined furniture and household belongings, walls, floors, carpeting, cabinets, and plumbing. We are endeavoring to offer solace and support in the name of Jesus to families, both within and without the household of faith, who have been devastated by this disaster.
To apply an athletic metaphor, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
In some houses we have had to remove everything but the exterior walls and interior framing because once the flood waters receded, mold became an instant and very serious health hazard. Mold can even grow in the grout between bricks as well as on masonry!
Stage 1: Tear-Out, Disposal, and Mold Remediation
The sheer amount of manual labor needed to complete Stage 1 recovery efforts is staggering.
Stage 1 is tear-out, disposal and mold remediation, and it needs to be done as quickly as possible.
Volunteers roll up their sleeves and pitch in with this effort. It’s exhausting as Houston is both hot and humid at this time of year.
There is an endless list of tasks in Stage 1 depending on the extent of damage.
In addition to the interior tear-out, all interior surfaces and any furniture and other salvageable household items exposed to flood water must be disinfected to kill dangerous mold and bacteria.
Exterior debris must be cleared and removed and exterior walls, driveways, and sidewalks must be pressure-washed.
Packing of remaining household goods for temporary relocation, and laundering of clothing, is also a critical part of this effort.
While these families are displaced, we stand with them to provide aid, comfort, encouragement, and support – first to our families in the body of Christ, and second, to all we have the resources to assist with the help of the greater church.
Blessed with an Army of Volunteers
All this requires the steady and concerted efforts of an army of volunteers, and we’ve been greatly blessed in this regard. In addition to the available resources within our own churches, we’ve seen a continuous stream of volunteers from places such as Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, and other parts of Texas, with more to come.
Rest assured that all of these servants of Christ come in the name of Jesus, even though they may not all be Orthodox Presbyterians!
We are thankful to God for families in our churches who have donated lunches, water, tools, and other necessities at the project sites for the volunteer workers, done loads of laundry for displaced families, and contributed to the relief effort in many ways.
The hosts supporting and caring for the volunteers have been nothing but extraordinary showing God’s love by offering their homes to volunteers as their “home away from home.” The fellowship of believers is strong in the bonds of Christ.
Stage 2: Reconstruction, Skilled Labor, and Building Materials
Stage 2 is reconstruction and we are moving into that phase now. It includes replacement and repair of: interior walls and floors, cabinetry, doors, windows, plumbing, electrical, HVAC.
Waterproofing and exterior drainage improvements also need to be done where possible.
In addition to general labor, Stage 2 requires volunteers who are skilled in trades who can apply their skills to the physical rebuilding and reconstruction effort. Stage 2 requires an array of building materials and supplies, hard goods that will require an investment of funds.
Donations of de-humidifiers and fans, building materials and supplies, insulation, carpeting, home furnishings, bedding, and other items are pouring in from around the country and we give God all the glory for the generosity of his people.
There are saints with contacts through their businesses who have offered to procure needed materials at significant discounts.
We rejoice and give thanks that God’s people have been exceedingly generous in giving to the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries of the OPC, where over $100,000 has been received already!
Spiritual Care and Relief of Physical Needs
Every day new opportunities present themselves to offer disaster relief and recovery in the Houston area, opportunities to minister to the needs of hurting and needy people in the name of Christ, and for his glory. Many of these people have no relationship with a church and may have never experienced genuine Christianity in action.
Our families have contacts at work, in their neighborhoods and other relationships which give rise to these opportunities.
Our local ministers, elders, deacons, church planters, and volunteers have opportunities on a daily basis for visitation, Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, encouragement, and assurance of our support to those we serve.
We look for opportunities to provide spiritual care and nurturing together with relief of physical needs.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40 (ESV)
To meet this challenge we will need volunteers. We will need general as well as skilled labor, and we will need site coordinators to oversee and superintend the day-to-day work at each project site.
To learn more about Hurricane Harvey relief volunteer opportunities and needs, please contact our Volunteer Coordinators Mark and Peggy Sumpter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pray for Wisdom
Please pray for wisdom as we assess needs against available resources and make decisions on who we can help. Some of the people impacted by flooding have flood insurance, which is extremely helpful in their recovery efforts. Many other people impacted by the unprecedented flooding do not have flood insurance for various reasons. Some now find themselves left with nothing, and no resources to rebuild their lives.
Salt and Light
God is truly using his body, the church, as both salt and light in these difficult days. Let us faithfully and diligently answer his call, and let us reflect on these words of our Lord:
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 (ESV)