Churches Along Hurricane Harvey’s Path of Devastation Reflect on One-Year Anniversary

A year after Hurricane Harvey, children gather to receive balloons at a block party in Beaumont, Texas, hosted by Calvary Baptist Church, which had helped residents recover from the storm. The event entailed a time of fellowship with people in the community featuring food, snow cones, outdoor games, face painting and balloon animals.
Photo by Morgan Collier

Hurricane Harvey swept disaster across the Texas Gulf Coast one year ago, first pummeling Rockport and Port Aransas with destructive winds, then stalling over Houston for three days before moving to the Golden Triangle with rainfall of up to 60 inches. Dozens were killed and thousands were displaced.

Separate gatherings marking the anniversary of the disaster were held at Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches the final weekend in August, the order of the three commemorations tracking Harvey’s path through Rockport, Humble and Beaumont.

Each event featured hot dogs, snow cones, outdoor games, music and speakers, SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) associate Wally Leverle said in describing the block parties.

Kevin Muilenburg, pastor of Coastal Oaks Church, welcomed the crowd of around 100 assembled outside the Rockport church’s gym on Sat., Aug. 25.

“It was a little different standing in this parking lot a year ago, but we are still in the process of making recovery from Harvey. I just want to give thanks to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, their disaster relief team, all that they have done to help us,” Muilenburg said, referring not only to general DR assistance but also the help given him and his family after their home was damaged.

Gesturing to the gym, Muilenburg said Coastal Oaks’ role had been to “be available” following Harvey. Its gym served as a distribution center for relief supplies while the church housed volunteers and sent out work crews.

“Our desire is just to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be whatever He wants us to be and to be available in the community,” the pastor said.

Muilenburg thanked God for the opportunity and thanked DR volunteers attending the celebration before introducing Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, who gave the first of three evangelistic messages he would deliver at the events.

Much of Jesus’ ministry took place around the Sea of Galilee, Richards said in speaking from Luke 8:23-27, calling the disciples “men of courage” who braved the dangers of the sea but were fearful in the face of storms.

“And so it is in our lives that storms come our way as well. Hurricane Harvey met landfall one year ago today,” Richards said in enumerating the cost of the storm: $125 billion in damage across the southern part of Texas, 190,000 homes damaged, 88 lives lost.

“When Jesus is in the boat, we are not to be fearful of the storm,” he proclaimed.

Setting forth the Gospel, Richards told the crowd, “We must give Him our lives. It’s what the Bible calls repentance. And we must believe. We must trust Him, take Him at His word that He will forgive us our sins and live in our lives.” Muilenburg then led in a time of prayer.

The next day, Aug. 26, 200-225 people gathered at First Baptist Church in Humble where executive pastor Rick Whitaker thanked the SBTC and welcomed the crowd for coming together for the unusual: “celebrating a disaster.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press; Southern Baptist TEXAN, Morgan Collier & Jane Rodgers