In the Wake of Harvey: One state, one fellowship of churches

Almost exactly 12 years ago Hurricane Katrina descended on Louisiana and changed some things about that state forever. A month later, our SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers had to rush back to East Texas, some to their own homes, to clean up in the wake of Hurricane Rita. To many of us, those events run together in a blur. The desperate need of those days jerked a fledgling state convention into maturity. We came out of it with a developed and experienced disaster relief apparatus that has regularly deployed across the state and around the world. Our churches began to expect of one another the kind of community and support a fellowship of churches should be able to provide. That implied promise was tested and grew into expanded church planting, missionary partnerships, evangelistic efforts, church revitalization and myriad church health resources a state convention should offer. Katrina was a game changer, even in Texas.

The observable changes begun in 2005 should cause us to anticipate the impact Hurricane Harvey. At this point, it is breathtaking to think of the size and population of the region from Corpus Christi to Beaumont, from Galveston to Conroe. At this writing, the project is still rescue and shelter. Long-term recovery efforts and assessments of the needs are weeks in the future. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands are out of their homes, churches are scattered and some church buildings are not usable as outposts. Many pastors and churches in the 54-county area will face severe financial challenges before any kind of clean up and restoration can begin. But a month from now we’ll know and be stunned by the scope of the measurable impact of a flood that has directly impacted about 40 percent of the Texas population, including one of the most dynamic cities in the U.S. It’s an event that will touch all of us, and it should. The world has seen bigger catastrophes, but this one is ours. Southeast Texas is a region of wealth, growth and strong churches that send missionary resources around the world. We, all of us, need Houston and her Christian community back up and running. But for now, they need us.

Our watchwords for this fall and winter are “pray,” “give” and “go.” We are very serious about all three. As our staff spoke with pastors in the region, even as rain was still falling, we talked with shepherds who were concerned about their scattered flocks, leaders who went all-in to provide for neighbors and first responders, and men who themselves were displaced by the rising water. We prayed with them and continue to pray for them as they are both victims and resources in their communities. That need for prayer will only grow as they dig out and face grueling days of counseling the grieved, feeding the needy and sharing the gospel with some who are broken enough to listen for the first time. Every single church in our state can pray for our fellow pastors and churches as they face the hardest days anyone remembers.

Join us in giving. No amount of money that we could raise will meet the needs of so many people or such a large geographic area. But we can help our sister churches get back on their feet or minister to their neighbors. Some of our disaster relief crews are operating in primitive conditions and working long, emotionally draining hours. Maybe you can’t be there, but you can help. We in North, West and Northeast Texas were spared, but we should not be unaffected. Help those who are on the scene to provide resources as basic as tarps and mold retardant or as lofty as spiritual counsel. If the churches that are still high and dry will suffer a fraction as much as their sister churches farther south and east, we can hasten the recovery of this essential portion of this essential state. Maybe your church is like mine and has seen a slow year of giving. Now, let’s imagine our churches transported to Corpus Christi in early September 2017. How ominous does your actual financial situation look compared to that imagination? Every single church in the unaffected areas can help financially. Click here for some immediate options.

Some of us can go. SBTC Disaster Relief post basic volunteer training to the week of September 4. You can be trained and you may be able to deploy for a week. The need will continue for at least months. Schedule a vacation if you need to. Some of our churches can adopt a church in Southeast Texas. Listen for more about this important program. My church and your church can encourage, assist and visit churches whose ministries seem on the bubble. We’re not ready to begin those partnerships at the moment, but it will come soon and you will hear about it. But you can volunteer now. We have collected names of several churches that have already volunteered to pray and give and go for our brothers in the flooded area. Every single church in the unaffected areas can deploy as least a few volunteers to address the needs of our sister churches. Get trained and plan to go. 

This is the time to invest our reserves. God may have allowed you to amass capable people, relative financial strength and faithful prayer warriors so you can pass these resources to those in greater need. A couple of months from now, our brethren in Beaumont, Rockport, Plum Grove and Houston should be a little less tired and devastated because we are a little more tired and invested in their recovery. Check back with us regularly as we do all we can to keep the needs known to all our churches. This is a time for us to prove that we are one fellowship of churches, given to one another to build up the body of Christ.


Get up-to-date information, find opportunities to volunteer, and give online at

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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