HOUSTON—Before most Gulf Coast residents returned to their homes, about 175 Texas Baptist Men disaster relief volunteers already had worked more than 5,500 hours and prepared 30,000-plus meals for first responders and sheltered evacuees.
And as the rain stopped and floodwaters receded, Texas Baptists intensified their efforts to minister to people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
About three-dozen TBM disaster relief workers set up a field kitchen outside the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, where they prepared meals for evacuees inside the mega-shelter.
“I remember when the Katrina people were here,” said one of the shelter residents, a homeless man who simply identified himself as James. “I never thought I would be.”
Gene Pepiton, director of missions for Wichita Archer Clay Baptist Association, had served with a TBM crew at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when people from New Orleans were evacuated to Houston. He returned to the same site after Harvey with a vanload of TBM volunteers from his association Aug. 30.
Before his crew left the TBM Dixon Missions Equipping Center in Dallas, he reminded the volunteers of the difference they could make as they showed Christ’s love by providing nourishing hot meals people who had experienced trauma.
“For a time, we can take their minds of some of their worst hurt,” Pepiton said.
He recalled incidents after Katrina when volunteers in downtown Houston faced what seemed to be insurmountable challenges. But God opened doors of opportunity when his people ceased to rely on their own resources and depended on him, he noted.
“When we can’t do it, God shows up,” he said.
Dwain Carter, deputy director of TBM disaster relief, encouraged the volunteer to look for every occasion to demonstrate the love of God, both through their actions and through words of Christian witness.
“We are the gospel in motion,” Carter said. “We are the hands and feet of Christ.”
Additional food-service teams worked in Victoria, Katy and in support of the Texas Task Force 1 search-and-rescue team.
Six days after the hurricane first made landfall in South Texas, TBM crew—together with Southern Baptist disaster relief workers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois and South Carolina—had washed nearly 600 loads of laundry and provided access to more than 800 showers in support of shelters and first responders.
Shower and laundry mobile units were deployed to shelters in Angleton, La Grange, Victoria, Katy and Portland, as well as multiple Houston-area sites and with Texas Task Force 1.
Damage assessors, asset protection personnel, chainsaw crews, heavy equipment operators and volunteers who distributed boxes to residents to help them reclaim and store scattering belongings worked in Victoria.
TBM childcare workers ministered to children and volunteer chaplains offered spiritual counsel at the shelter set up at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
Victim Relief Ministries—an interdenominational ministry that grew out of TBM’s restorative justice ministry program—also sent chaplains, crisis responders and comfort dog teams to the downtown Dallas shelter and to Refugio County in South Texas.
TBM established mobile command posts in Victoria and Katy, and the group deployed flood recovery units to La Grange and Katy.
Thousands of additional TBM volunteers remained on alert, waiting deployment—not only to meet immediate needs, but also to provide care over the long term.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Mickey Lenamon, TBM executive director. “We will still be responding, whether it’s a month from now or a year from now.”
To contribute financially to TBM disaster relief, click here or send a check designated “disaster relief” to Texas Baptist Men, 5351 Catron, Dallas 75227.