I traveled to the Houston metro area with a group of students and leaders from Baptist Bible College to assist churches in providing relief after Hurricane Harvey. With the students split into three teams, my plan was to visit with as many pastors as I could while in the area. In a two-day period, I travelled more than 500 miles, all within what would be considered the Houston metro and visited with 11 pastors. Houston truly is a city of cities.
Having pastored in the Houston area, this trip was personally moving, and following are a few thoughts from this experience.
HOLD ONTO THINGS LIGHTLY. It was extremely humbling to drive through neighborhoods and see piles and piles of earthly possessions stacked next to the road. Amazingly, I spoke with many who had lost everything and maintained their joy.
YOU ARE NEVER MORE LIKE JESUS THAN WHEN YOU ARE SERVING. I saw Christian families that lost everything still serving others. I saw pastors serve others before taking care of their own needs. I saw students willingly giving up a free weekend to serve those they had never met.
THE CHURCH CAN, AND SHOULD BE, MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE GOVERNMENT. USA Today reported nearly 80% of the aid delivered to communities with homes devastated by the recent hurricanes was provided by faith-based relief groups, primarily powered by the church. Texas BBF Chairman, Mike Marcellus, reported that approximately 27,000 families have been helped through the churches connected with the BBFI. I visited several churches that were functioning as distribution centers as well as providing manpower for cleanup within the community.
PASTORS ARE HEROES, BUT THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO. As I met with pastors, it was amazing to hear their stories. Each of them told the same story in a different way. Some told of devastation in their church buildings, some told of destruction in church members’ homes, and some told of the personal loss of their own homes and/or vehicles. Several of them were still unable to return to their homes to stay. I heard heroic stories and stories of personal sacrifice. But I also heard in these stories, a weariness, a physical and emotional exhaustion. History has shown that some of these pastors may not survive their ministry because of this. In our prayers for the people of Houston, be sure to include those who are leading in the front lines of this spiritual battle.
To see a video of Randy Harp’s interviews with pastors in the Houston area click here.