Two years ago, I left my beloved Virginia to follow my husband to Houston, TX. He had accepted a job at Second Baptist Church, the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. I left behind the small Virginia town I’d called home for six years, a church plant family I adored, some of my dearest friends, and the SBC of Virginia staff, who had become like family. It was a loss I mourned deeply and pleaded with the Lord to restore.
“Days know not of what years can tell,” was a phrase Marcy Carter (wife of my pastor, Jim Carter, of Riverside Church in Boonsboro, VA) would quote frequently to me and to others. Despite my heal-grinding, nail-biting, and control-craving struggle with the Lord about living in the strange and foreign land of Texas, the years have revealed His purpose, His trustworthiness, and His sovereignty. Perhaps the most tangible example of this is the work SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief teams have done alongside our Second Baptist Church: South Campus family here in Pearland, TX, just south of Houston.
No one could have predicted or prepared for the wrath Hurricane Harvey would unleash on Southeast Texas. The rain here wasn’t measured in inches, it was measured in feet. Homes that had never flooded before were filled with several feet of water. Bayous that had recently been expanded to triple their capacity overflowed to the level of filling one-story homes to the ceiling.
In the face of overwhelming loss and destruction, our pastor, Dr. Ed Young, reminded us, “It is in moments of man’s extremity that God finds opportunity. Hurricane Harvey has shown us all how little control we have over our lives. The greatest revivals in Church history have all had one thing in common: desperation. Our city is desperate, and we as Christians must step up to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
On Thursday, August 31, our church staff (with very limited disaster relief experience, some of whom had flood-damaged homes themselves) scrambled to build a massive disaster relief effort from the ground up, even as the water had yet to recede from thousands of homes. By the next day, requests for assistance were pouring in by the hundreds. A single mom with five young children needed food, diapers, and help removing damaged sheetrock and possessions from her home. An elderly couple, with the wife on her second round of chemo, were still living in their flood-ravaged home and needed help removing water-soaked walls and possessions before mold began to grow. A church whose new-to-them building had received four feet of water needed help because 80% of its congregation had received flood damage to their homes.
We didn’t sleep much those first few days. By the end of Labor Day weekend, our staff and our volunteers were exhausted, and most of our volunteer base was returning to work the next day. Meanwhile, the number of unfulfilled requests for assistance had jumped to over 400 for our church campus alone.
It was onto this scene that the SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief teams arrived. When I saw those familiar yellow shirts pouring out of trucks and trailers sporting “SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief,” it felt as if the cavalry had arrived just in time.
Over the next two weeks, SBCV Disaster Relief teams brought their training and experience to our relief efforts. They worked alongside our church to clean out homes, share the love of Jesus with homeowners who had lost so much, and serve thousands of hot meals to volunteers and the community. In addition, they encouraged and revived our church family and painted a beautiful picture of the body of Christ coming together.
Many of you have probably heard the phrase Not Alone used throughout the SBC of Virginia. It was the theme of our Annual Homecoming last year and will be again at Annual Homecoming this November. I have to admit, it wasn’t until the volunteers from Virginia came to our aid that Not Alone resonated for me on a personal level.
Together we are Not Alone. We are Houston (and Virginia) strong.
Rachel Adams lives in Pearland, Texas where her husband serves as the high school pastor at Second Baptist Church: South Campus, the smallest of Second’s six campuses. Rachel works remotely for the SBC of Virginia’s Media Team.
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