Hurricane Relief in Houston: A Sustained Work of Mercy
First Quarter Report from Steve Larson, OPC Regional Disaster Response Coordinator, Houston, TX (April 10, 2018)
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8 NKJV
The first quarter of 2018 has flown past quickly, and the work of our OPC-led Hurricane Harvey disaster relief has continued apace. At the outset of this ministry, which began in September of last year immediately in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, no one knew or could have predicted how long it would continue and what shape it would take. Not only is this ministry still going strong, there is still work to do.
- Let me lead off by expressing appreciation to Jeff and Gloria Davis, from Cedar OPC in Jenison, Michigan, who have labored here in Houston for many months serving as Site Coordinator (Jeff) and Hospitality Coordinator (Gloria). Please be assured that Gloria's work is not limited to hospitality by any means.
- Second, many thanks to Peggy Sumpter for her continued faithful (and mostly unheralded) service as Volunteer Coordinator.
- Third, I must also acknowledge Fred and Brenda Deru from Wasilla, Alaska, who took a break from their travels around the country to spend an extended period of time here in Houston to dive in and help with the disaster relief ministry. Fred is a many-talented man with a conviction to serve and has had a very timely and critical impact, for which we are grateful.
- I would also like to thank Regional Home Missionary Rev. Mark Sumpter, and OPC Disaster Response Coordinator David Nakhla, who together with myself comprise the "Temporary Operating Committee" (TOC), which oversees the Hurricane Harvey disaster relief ministry in Houston.
- Last but not least, thank you to Communications Coordinator Janet Birkmann, who through Facebook, S.T.O.R.M. Reports, and New Horizons, has done much to keep the tremendous and persistent need here in Houston, as well as other disaster-impacted areas such as Puerto Rico and Florida, in the spotlight.
Volunteers and Donors:
There are way too many individual volunteers to mention. This is amazing to think about! God truly has done an amazing work to provoke many hearts into devoting personal vacation time and resources to minister to hurting people in Houston trying to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.
- As of March 31, 2018, 189 individuals have shown up in Houston to put their hands to the plow.
- These volunteers come from many places.
- They come as individuals, entire families, and groups.
- Some are sent by their church and sometimes they come representing a broader organization.
- They represent OP churches from all regions of the country; PCA, URC, Bible Presbyterian, and non-Presbyterian and reformed churches; Reformed Mission Services, PCA Mission to North America, and private relief groups such as Justice for All.
- Without their God-inspired "call to action," this ministry would not be possible.
God has blessed us greatly in at least two ways.
- First, he has provided volunteers who possess the skills needed to do the work at precisely the right times. We have seen some incredibly talented, gifted and dedicated people here!
- Secondly, God has poured out his spirit on his people to give generously to the OPC Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund for the material support of this work and ministry.
More work is before us and more volunteers are needed. Please be in prayer for the stream of volunteers to continue and consult the How to Volunteer page at OPCSTM.org for all the details.
"And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing,
and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing."
Ezekiel 34:26 ESV
A total of 24 individual families have been served to some degree during this quarter. The material assistance we have provided to each of these families varies according to need, and our ability to respond based on available volunteer labor, volunteer skill level, financial resources, and access to outside contractual assistance. A summary list of services rendered includes (but is not limited to):
- Inspection of property damage to assess how we may serve the family, yard and property debris cleanup, tear out and demolition of damaged walls, floors, cabinetry and the like, mold remediation, repair/replace electrical wiring and fixtures, repair/replace plumbing and fixtures, install moisture barrier systems, install new insulation and drywall, finish and paint drywall, install flooring, windows, interior and exterior doors, interior moldings, lighting, kitchen cabinetry and appliances, reconstruct built-in shelves and cabinetry, inspect and repair HVAC systems, dig exterior drainage ditches and install drain pipe, regrade exterior of property to improve drainage, repair/replace gutters and downspouts, roof repairs.
- I am surely leaving things off this list inadvertently that were done by the diligent labor of our volunteers.
The new property and building of Cornerstone OPC in Houston (undergoing renovation and reconstruction and yet to be occupied) sustained Hurricane Harvey-related water damage. Volunteers together with the TOC contributed much work to the effort of recovery and reconstruction of this building.
The Houston Vietnamese Community Church (CMA) is pastored by an OPC minister, Rev. Kim Dang. The building sustained significant Hurricane Harvey-related damage, which our teams have tackled. The congregation has also graciously allowed us to use their facilities as a "dormitory" for visiting volunteers, which is a huge blessing.
This Is A Ministry:
Finally, and most importantly, the Hurricane Harvey disaster relief ministry is just that, a ministry. I remain convinced that God in his great providence brought Hurricane Harvey to the shores of Texas so that his church would have the great privilege to show mercy and to bring good news to the afflicted. In God's economy, tragedy has meaning and inevitably brings about rebirth and renewal. It has great benefit for both the saved and the unsaved:
- For the saved in the church, it's an unforeseen intersection of opportunity and need that calls for bold action.
- For the unsaved, it is more likely an involuntary confrontation with the ultimate questions of life.
As servants of Christ, when we offer to serve a family's physical and material need for disaster relief and recovery, we do it with the deliberate intention of showing them the love of Christ, and sharing the hope of the gospel in Christ. I'm not aware of a single instance where a family has declined our request to pray with and for them, and we make it a point to do this with each family we encounter.
- Several opportunities for direct witness have resulted from conversations taking place while volunteers work side-by-side and establish relationships with these families.
- Time and space doesn't permit me to add the details of these encounters, each of which is a unique work of the Holy Spirit.
Capitalizing on this unique opportunity, Regional Home Missionary Rev. Mark Sumpter, local ministerial intern Miller Ansell, and others, have endeavored to reach out to many of these families as well as other families in their neighborhoods. They've gone door-to-door, meeting, greeting, praying with and offering spiritual encouragement to these who have been stricken by disaster.
- This is both a season to plant seeds as well as a season to reap the harvest, and we're seeing an opportunity to plant much seed.
- We pray that this seed will germinate and grow into an abundant harvest in days and months to come.
A disaster of this magnitude can transform a city in more ways than one!
In conclusion, what began as a frenzied effort to respond to the immediate aftermath of the worst hurricane to hit Texas in decades, and the worst flooding in the Houston area in living memory, has blossomed into a sustained work of mercy and outreach in one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the United States. A year ago this ministry didn't exist.
- Though we are small in number, God has used the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Houston to make a positive impact in the lives of many people.
- Let us continue in prayer that God will save his elect and that we will remain faithful in obedience to his call to action.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
Hurricane Harvey Archives:
- Click here for more on OPC hurricane relief in Houston