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EDITOR'S NOTE: John C. Bates is pastor of Freedom Fellowship International in Waxahachie, Texas. Bates is a member of the Assemblies of God Prayer Committee.
As a product of the South Texas District, raised in Houston, it is with sadness that I watch the ongoing catastrophic aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey. The floodwaters trapped my mother, along with two sisters and their families.
As of Aug. 30, the official rainfall from Harvey in some parts of Houston topped 50 inches. This breaks the record for rain from a storm in the continental U.S.
Robert Hunter, director of Insurance at the Consumer Federation of America stated, "All these people taken out in boats, they have a second problem. They have no insurance." Hunter estimates only two out of 10 have flood insurance in the neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast.
Pastor Cecil Whitton at LifePointe Fellowship in Pearland was told his church was in a 500-year flood plain and insurance was unnecessary. Water had never invaded the area the church occupies. At least 60 percent of the carpet will need replacing. The church's music minister and family were evacuated from their home by boat and are residing at the Whitton's home.
Ordained AG minister Dan E. Hunter helped with the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans and said the devastation of Houston is much worse. Hunter serves as executive pastor of Grace Community Church, which has over four feet of standing water in the sanctuary. Scores in their congregation are devastated, heartbroken, and hopeless.
Superintendent J. R. Rodriguez of the Texas/Louisiana Hispanic District reports 10 churches have sustained heavy flood damage. Templo Aposento Alto (Upper Room AG) has become a distribution center working with Urban Strategies and World Vision.
CT Church, pastored by Don Nordin, reports water damage at its Houston and Pasadena campuses. The roads to those campuses in Sugarland and Gulfgate have been impassible. Nordin reports dozens of their families have lost everything with many rescued from the rooftops of their homes.
Conroe First Assembly is ramping up to receive relief workers from other states and AG districts. Conroe is located on the northern portion of the Houston metroplex. Pastor Ernest Fridge reports several families of Conroe First have experienced extreme flooding and needed rescuing. They are now displaced with no time frame of return in sight. Fridge is concerned about rivers and creeks cresting and levees and dams holding.
Tim R. Barker, superintendent of the South Texas District, has been in constant contact with frustrated and devastated pastors, even though the South Texas District office was flooded. Dozens of the South Texas churches experienced flood damage. Barker tells of Highway Tabernacle, pastored by Charles Stoker, in Cleveland having standing water covering the seats in the sanctuary. The church opened the remainder of its facilities, unaffected by high water to house refugees. Convoy of Hope arrived on Thursday. Barker says he is overwhelmed at the outpouring of compassion from the executive leaders at the AG National Office, along with numerous district officials across the nation. AG Disaster Relief called offering financial assistance to the devastated churches of South Texas.
As you can only imagine, prayer is desperately needed. The following prayer needs are directly from these four pastors and two district superintendents:
1. Ask God to cause the dams and levees to hold their waters so as not to add to the dramatic flooding.
2. Pray for supernatural wisdom for the pastors of our AG churches. They are dealing with problems bigger than they have ever dealt with.
3. Ask God to minister peace to the weary, shell-shocked throngs of those who are displaced and have lost everything.
4. Petition God on behalf of those rescuing the distressed. Pray for their safety.
5. Pray for the churches of South Texas to rise up and show themselves strong in the Lord.
6. Pray for the waters to wash away racism and socioeconomic prejudices, as people are working together to survive.
7. Pray for the waters to quickly recede so recovery may begin.
Psalm 34:10 reads, "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Will you join me and our Fellowship in seeking the Lord on behalf of those in this greatest natural disaster in our nation's history. God will be glorified!