Baptist groups are working to assess needs and to formulate relief plans as Hurricane Harvey continues to pour water into an already-flooded southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.
Texas Baptist Men (TBM), which partners with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention, has relief and aid initiatives already underway.
These include providing items to shelters, which are housing residents who had to evacuate, and having “38 volunteers active in the field on Sunday, Aug. 27, in Robstown, Victoria, Uvalde, LaGrange, Dallas and San Antonio with others preparing to deploy.”
Further resources and initiatives “will be deployed as the storm allows,” TBM explained.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Disaster Response team is staying in touch with local partners in Texas – including CBF of Texas and the newly formed Fellowship Southwest – in preparation for action.
“The work in Houston remains focused on search and rescue,” said Alan Williams, coordinator of CBF’s U.S. Disaster Response, in an Aug. 28 press release. “We will have a better idea of needs in the coming days as the rain subsides and flood waters recede.”
On Aug. 25, CBF explained that its relief efforts focus primarily on longer-term impacts, which is why it “employs most of its resources on the long-term recovery, rehabilitation and resiliency of a community after first-responders have finished their work.”
The Baptist General Association of Virginia is mobilizing its disaster relief team as well, in preparation for action once the hurricane, now a tropical storm, has ended.
“Until the rains stop and the floodwaters begin to recede, we will not be able to mobilize volunteers to Texas,” BGAV emphasized on Aug. 28. “We will maintain close communication with our partners throughout the week to determine the best opportunities for us to respond.”
In addition to volunteers, BGAV’s Disaster Response team is requesting that local churches donate hygiene kits and “flood buckets” – five-gallon buckets filled with items to help residents clean up after the floodwaters reside.
Four Baptist churches are among the congregations in the Houston area that have established shelters for residents needing to evacuate due to flooding, according to KTRK, an ABC affiliate in Houston.
Other congregations, such as Sugar Land Baptist Church, located in a southwest Houston suburb, have not been able to provide shelter due to flooding.
Taylor Sandlin, Sugar Land’s pastor, responded on Facebook Monday morning to inquiries regarding the possibility of their congregation offering shelter.
“Our church and community are facing an unprecedented natural disaster. Areas around the church are in a mandatory or voluntary evacuation zone due to the Brazos River flooding,” he said. “The church building is itself in a voluntary evacuation zone and under threat of flooding. There would be a very real possibility that the church loses electricity and water. While the third floor would stay dry, it would be without the most basic provisions needed for an extended stay.”
Later in the day on Monday, Sandlin shared that his family had evacuated to Katy, Texas, about 30 miles west of downtown Houston, because “both the church and our house are currently dry, but may not be within the next 24 hours.”
The Trump administration approved emergency declarations for Texas (Aug. 25) and Louisiana (Aug. 28), which provides federal funding and other resources to assist in relief and recovery efforts.