Hurricane Harvey’s devastation is simply breathtaking: $190 billion dollars in estimated damage (in comparison to Hurricane Katrina’s $125 billion), 51.9 inches of rain and at least 30,000 people displaced. To make matters worse, many of Harvey’s victims did not have flood insurance.

In today’s episode, Pastor Will Cover of Arise Baptist Church (of Houston, Texas) walks us through his experience during Hurricane Harvey, his church’s efforts to help the community recover and practical lessons he has learned about disaster response. Though Arise Baptist is a church plant (having started on Easter of 2017), it is having an outsized impact in the wake of Harvey! Here is an outline of the discussion:

#1 Connecting Resources to Need

Arise Baptist was spared from serious damage (the floodwaters came within an inch of flooding the church’s building), so Pastor Cover and church members have worked tirelessly to connect volunteers and resources from across the United States with devastated neighbors and damaged churches.

#2 Lessons about Disaster Response

When Harvey struck, Pastor Cover and his church jumped into action despite having little experience in disaster relief. Pastor Cover shares the following steps he took in responding to the disaster:

  • Crisis –  He realized that a crisis had hit his community, and he put everything else aside to focus his efforts on relief.
  • Communication – Pastor Cover and his church started reaching out to other churches, neighbors, members, attendees, community leaders and anyone else they could think of. Pastor Cover has also used social media to effectively communicate with those in need and the church community outside Houston.
  • Connect – As mentioned above, the Church did not have a large amount of resources to throw into disaster relief. Rather, the church has served as a connection point between Christians around the United States and disaster-struck areas in Houston.
  • Convert Disaster Relief into Action Steps – Pastor Cover has been successful in breaking down the very complex task of hurricane relief into action steps for churches and relief teams. As we have discussed before on the podcast, many people want to be involved. They just don’t know exactly what to do. Pastor Cover has been successful in mobilizing people and donations because he has developed simple, actionable steps.

#3 Hope After Harvey

Despite the bad press received by Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church, Pastor Cover notes that the “Big C” Church is visibly and effectively responding to the crisis. He recounts several stories about how his church has been able to  connect with their community because of their efforts. Pastor Cover was recently asked to write a weekly column in a local paper, and here are his thoughts, titled “Hope After Harvey”:

“This past Saturday night my family and I were driving home through Oak Forest and Garden Oaks.  We were visiting my brother and sister-in-law and headed home after the rain started. Things didn’t seem too bad but as we travelled across 43rd St headed east the water got deeper and deeper. We finally made it home after some very scary moments of wondering whether our vehicle would make it through the high water. We began the process of watching, waiting, and wondering over the next few days. Watching the news, watching the water level in our yard, waiting to see how long the rain would last, and wondering when the end would ever come and if we would have to evacuate. There was a lot of worry and concern and not much hope for a while.  We have hope when we think about what could be, not what currently is our situation. Seeing people helping other people gave us hope.  Seeing the weather begin to clear gave us hope. There is hope for our city to recover from this flood because we have a city that is dedicated to rebuilding and helping one another.  As a follower of Christ there is even more hope after Harvey.  For those who trust in Christ they have hope of eternal life. This is not a false hope or a hope that can be taken away. Titus 1:2, speaking about a person who has faith in Jesus Christ for salvation says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”  Do you have this hope?  Our church is working to do our part to spread physical and spiritual hope after Harvey.  We are helping provide food and necessities to those who have lost much during this flood.  We are providing labor and supplies to several other churches in the Houston area that were flooded, and we are working to share spiritual encouragement and hope to those who are struggling.  Even though many have lost much, as a believer in Christ we know that there is hope after Harvey! ” 

Amen.

If you would like to donate to the ongoing relief efforts of Arise Baptist Church, please visit their relief page here (select Harvey relief on the drop-down menu) or visit the church’s Facebook page.