While we watch Hurricane Irma leave a devastating trail in its wake as it heads towards the Southeastern United States, relief efforts in Texas will continue for months to come in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With the onslaught of tragedy occurring recently, it can be hard to keep up. But in the midst of it all, we don’t want to lose sight of how God’s people are working in these times of crisis. We are running a series of interviews with church leaders and pastors on the ground helping with relief efforts in Texas. Today, my team interviewed Christa Freyhof, Mobilization Pastor at Bayou City Fellowship.
As I wrote in USAToday last week, faith based groups are leading the way in Harvey recovery and relief. We want to help tell their stories, so let’s jump in.
Ed: While many of us have been watching and praying from a distance, you are on the ground with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. What’s happening in your town right now in terms of the damage and the work that needs to be done?
Christa Freyhof: We have been in several different phases of rescue and rebuild over the past two weeks since Harvey made its way out of the Houston area. As many people know, Hurricane Harvey brought torrential rains which created a tremendous amount of flooding. In addition to the rain, the demand on the reservoirs in our city became too much to bear, which resulted in the necessary decision to release some of the water. This created an additional level of threat to those in the vicinity of those reservoirs. Many homes in the neighborhoods near the reservoirs were devastated with severe flooding. Depending upon the area of Houston, some of the waters began to recede soon after Harvey left the area, while other areas were still flooding due to the circumstances of the reservoirs. As of today, most of the areas around Houston have had the water recede enough that demo and clean up has begun.
Ed: I see that you are launching bayoucityrelief.com in the coming days. Tell me a little about that, including why you are launching it and what the goal is.
Christa: In order to accommodate the magnitude of volunteers and needs in a sustainable way, we created bayoucityrelief.com. This is the way that we are letting our community know that we are in this for the long haul in “Helping Houston Get Home.” The website is helping us to maintain an organized structure so that we can assist effectively and efficiently. Currently, we are also partnering with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to assist us in bringing in outside volunteer teams. Bayou City Fellowship will marry up the needs that we receive from our community with the volunteer work force that NAMB has to make this effort as seamless as possible for those we are serving.
Ed: How have you seen the Church in action over the past week?
Christa: Bayou City Fellowship began our efforts to assist families in need of flood relief as soon as we knew Harvey was going to cause serious damage. Our staff was working through the night, as the hurricane was approaching, to prep our website in such a way that allowed people to volunteer, donate financially, donate supplies, or let us know that they were in need of flood relief. We had an amazing response of 1,297 registered volunteers. Most of those volunteers were part of our Bayou City Fellowship family. We also had an overwhelming response of over 600 families requesting flood relief and that number continues to grow even today.
The Church as a whole has been incredible here in Houston and around the country. Quite a few Houston churches are doing similar efforts as us. We are sharing in the workload together. The motivation is to share the love of Jesus. That motivating factor is what makes the Church beautiful to the world.
In order for us to sustain these efforts, we know that we need the Body of Christ collectively working together from Houston and many parts of the country. It has been incredibly difficult on our hearts to see so many in our community who have lost everything. Yet it’s been beautiful to see the Church offer hope through Jesus. Many who have not known or understood the love of Christ are experiencing that through this tragedy.
Ed: How can people be praying for you during this time, and are there ways people can partner with you tangibly?
Christa: Our biggest prayer request is that God would be glorified in all of this. The Lord has given us, as believers, the opportunity to be in homes with families who were strangers to us two weeks ago. Now they are friends. We want to honor God with this opportunity to love our community really well in order that they would know the love of Christ.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.