In Lake Jackson, Texas youth minister, comedian, and relief worker Hoss Ridgeway and many volunteers have done a wonderful job of helping the hurting. When it was decided that the dead tree in front of the church should be cut Hoss suggested a cross should be left. What a fitting reminder that in the face of storms God prevails!
Carol and I met with Hoss and preacher Allen Ritchie and heard about the great work that has been done from the Lake Jackson church of Christ campus. Work continues with the help of volunteers who are removing debris, mucking out houses, and repairing them. Hoss took us on a tour of one community where they have been active. Surfside, a beach community was hurt very badly. The picture below is of what was rows of water front properties that are completely gone except for 4 houses. My hat’s off to the Lake Jackson folks who were first in with ice, food, and smiling faces.
Next we visited Clear Lake, Texas where we met preacher Byron Fike and elder Ben Glisan. What a great church! They are hosting the Hilltop Rescue group and other volunteer teams have used their facility for food, rest, and spiritual refreshment. The church has constructed additional shower facilities to accommodate the dozens of happy volunteers there to serve the Clear Lake community. Byron and Ben were gracious and informative hosts. Clear Lake is a great church. If you are ever south of Houston don’t miss visiting them.
Next we made our way to Galveston and the Broadway church. We enjoyed a great lunch with our sisters in Christ Jane Smith and Judy Peter from El Campo. We have been closely associated with these great ladies in the work at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. At the Broadway church location, we met Superman! Mike Baumgarner (Disaster Assistance, Inc.) who has been on site cooking and serving hot meals to folks in Galveston for more than a month now. He has been averaging over 800 lunches a day. Mike has done an unbelievable job, First, at Goodwood church, and then in Galveston. He needs funding and will likely be able to stay only one more week.
The beautiful historic homes of the famous “Strand” along Broadway in Galveston bear the marks of Ike. Boarded windows, blue tarps on roofs, and debris everywhere are representative of the broken lives of the residents. There is much yet to be done but because of very little press coverage, money and volunteers are in short supply.
Our next stop was Orange, Texas and the 9th and Elm church where we met minister Barry Jones, my new hero. This gentle soul really has his plate full. In addition to the duties of preaching and all the accompanying duties of ministering to a sizable congregation, Barry has assumed the job of relief coordinator for the surrounding area. He has had some help from a dear brother from Mississippi, Fred Walker, elder of the Long Beach church.
Twenty families of the 9th and Elm church suffered significant damage to their homes. With the help of volunteers, much of the damaged dry wall has been removed. The next step will be the installation of new drywall, and many volunteers are needed to accomplish this. Barry and his volunteers have worked tirelessly to aid these dear hurting folks. They have a source for the sheetrock but have no one to hang and finish it. In addition to the stress of having two fulltime jobs, Barry has been ministering to two families in the church whose son and brother committed suicide just a few days ago. He lost his business after the hurricane; his home was badly damaged, and in despair took his own life. In the face of so much loss and tragedy, the remarkable believers at the 9th and Elm church are still smiling, still trusting our dear Lord, and doing all they can for others. The church building had several inches of water in it and one lady who stayed in the building had to be rescued by boat. In the nearby community of Bridge City, virtually every home was damaged with water from a few inches to several feet. Please pray for and the work at Bridge City.
Remember to keep Barry and the 9th and Elm church in your prayers. Spread the word about the need for workers.
Our last stop was in Sulphur, LA at the Maplewood church of Christ. There we met elder Roger Corley. We spent a few hours with him learning about the work of Maplewood and enjoying his contagious optimism about the work yet to be done. He, too, says the greatest need is for volunteers. It is very difficult to get enough folks to do the work. Maplewood has built a wonderful building that will be used for youth and other ministry but likely would not have been built but for the need for a staging area for disaster relief work. They have been able to clean and help repair many homes in Cameron Parish but also have given thousands of dollars of appliances and bedding to the people who lost everything. Their goal is to plant a church in Cameron Parish. I’m sure their unselfish labor of love in the community will be an asset to reaching that goal. Maplewood is also hosting the Hilltop Rescue group.
On Thursday we met our friends Fred and Dee Franke for a late breakfast. They drove over to Baton Rouge from New Orleans for a visit. What a delightful couple. And what a job Fred and his Project Nehemiah have done in New Orleans, first after Hurricane Katrina and now in wake of the latest hurricanes. Fred’s ministry has helped to plant churches, feed and clothe people, supply appliances, cleaning supplies, and brought hope to so many hundreds of people. He also needs funding to continue. The recovery work in the New Orleans area has only scratched the surface. There is much to be done. I am very thankful for men like Fred who stepped out by faith and tackled the situation head on. Fred is not only a leader, preacher/teacher, but a brilliant strategist as well. Here is a resource that should be used more. His ideas on the methodology of planting churches is ‘right on’ in my view.
I can’t end this post without mentioning Disaster Relief, Inc. of Nashville. You can’t visit any location in America where there has been a natural disaster that Disaster Relief has not already been there when you get there. Their truck loads of food boxes, appliances, and bedding have been invaluable for many, many years. Thank God for Joe Dudney and his helpers. May God continue to bless them.
It is my joy to assist my wife Carol with her work for WFR Relief. It has been a wonderful, eye opening experience that is priceless. Don Yelton, White’s Ferry Road Relief director, is another hero of the disaster recovery business and has been for over 30 years.
Please remember these people and ministries I have mentioned and the unnamed thousands who still need help and Christ.