FCC responds to disaster, visited by national official
First Christian Church of Aransas Pass was blessed to be visited by Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, the general minister and president of the national Disciples of Christ Christian Church, who came to see firsthand the labor of love from the local church, the community, the first responders, as well as from volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Pastor David H. Dear and representatives from churches throughout the state met with Owens last week to talk about the overwhelming response.
Owens told the group, “It warms my heart to hear about the things (done). We can do a lot if we just work together and organize, and that’s all that’s happened.” She said it’s a powerful thing, and it’s “the strongest witness in the world, to see that because of Christ it doesn’t matter whether your disciples of Christ, you are a human being and you are in need and we’re going to meet that need. That’s how Jesus needs to be seen in this world.”
Dear said in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, through the many volunteers, they have seen people they would not have seen, and met people they would not have met in other circumstances.
Owens said as she drove through the Houston area before coming to Aransas Pass, seeing the debris people have stripped from what was once their homes, and seeing mounds and mounds “of people’s lives” just waiting to be picked up has been overwhelming.
She has been meeting with lots of pastors, and congregations which sustained lots of damage, especially flooding, leaks. Owens pointed out it is one thing to see people who have resources such as insurance, but to see people who are elderly displaced is difficult.
Owens explained the Disciples of Christ have a ministry called Week of Compassion, which is a disaster response ministry to which all DC churches contribute. She said they have been prepared ever since they knew Hurricane Harvey was on the way. The ministry is one way in which the denomination can meet the immediate needs of its congregations.
She said DC state official Caroline Arnold, who lives in Houston, had been keeping her posted about the situation, and provided a list of pastors experiencing the most immediate concerns. She called and spoke to them, and issued a pastoral letter, after which they said it would be good if she could come down, she did.
Owens said one of the most important parts of being in her role as general minister/president is no to just sit in her office in Indianapolis, but be around the people. She said the Disciples of Christ are a very diverse church, adding, “In this time, we are all in need of God’s love.”
She said it is a blessing to hear people’s stories, hear how the church is able to help, and continue to serve. She then referred to the group Disciples Volunteering which will be organizing teams of individuals who will partner with other organizations to have defined projects and schedules.
Owens is the first African American to serve as general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the first African American woman to head up the spiritual life and administration of a mainline denomination in the United States.
Dear told Owens, “Having you come has been the icing on the cake to bring attention here.”
The pastor pointed out FCC set up incident command according to NIMS – National Incident Management System, established by the military. He presented a timeline to Owens and those presents to layout what the local church has done and continues to do to help with emergency response after Harvey hit on Friday, Aug. 24. That timeline is condensed as follows:
Aug. 26-27 – Continued attempts to contact congregation members.
Aug. 28 – Set up electronic giving site – National Christian Foundation and thus far have received $26,000.
Aug. 29 – Rented truck in San Antonio and began filling it with emergency supplies
Aug. 30 – Finished loading truck and began caravan to Aransas Pass. Upon arrival, offloaded supplies into local churches Sunday school rooms.
Aug. 31 – Set up incident command system at church and set up the following: incident command, supply and distribution, financial and logistic support, food, utilities, work crew assignments, and government/volunteer liaison. Flooded rooms were cleaned and converted to supply and distribution site. Generators were set up.
Sept. 1-3 – Collaborated with Oakridge Baptist Church to send out work crews. Additional supplies began to arrive from outside sources, and distribution of those supplies began to families in need.
Sept. 4 – Work crews from other churches began to arrive, some with chainsaws. Work requests set up in collaboration with All Hands. Fort Worth Builders’ Jason Ramsey offered his services including meeting with Texas Windstorm and FEMA representatives and homeowners.
Sept. 5 – Thanksgiving service held in fellowship hall and relief efforts continued.
Sept. 6 to present – Arnold has been contacted about Week of Compassion. Assistance from many churches has arrived: Universal City FBC sent 30 volunteers with chainsaw crews, Christ Chapel Bible Church of Fort Worth, South Shore Christian Church, First Christian Church of San Marcos, Austin Disaster Relief Network, First Christian Church of Corpus Christi, and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio sent five volunteers.
The local church has given out supplies to more than 300 families, have completed more than 50 work orders for clearing debris, and have issues more than $1,500 in gasoline cards, and assisted 11 households in the reconstruction process.
Looking forward, Dear said many churches have suffered significant loss and do not have sanctuaries. He has offered to share FCC’s and rotate his pulpit.
FCC and volunteers will continue to dig out, remove debris and trees. To that end, Christ Chapel has offered a backhoe and operator for onemonth service in the area.
They also have set up a grant system using collected funds for those most in need. The assistance is being offered outside the walls of the church.
The Blessings Shop lost is roof and most of its merchandise has been damaged, and church officials are applying for a grant to love to another location.
In spite of the destruction, Dear assures the church and community will move forward, and FCC will be there to help.