Orchard Park (NY) Presbyterian and Auburn (AL) UMC help Harvey victims

Orchard Park (NY) Presbyterian and Auburn (AL) UMC help Harvey victims

Two churches from very different parts of the country teamed up recently to work with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders and help residents in the Houston area who are still dealing with the effects of this past summer’s flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Volunteers from Orchard Park Presbyterian Church of Orchard Park, N.Y., and Auburn United Methodist Church of Auburn, Ala., worked on five homes during the week of service. Orchard Park TV station WIVB reports on the work here, and you can view a slideshow below shared by Orchard Park Presbyterian. If you would like to volunteer with the Disaster ReBuilders, please click here.

Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders now accepting volunteers in Texas & Louisiana

Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders now accepting volunteers in Texas & Louisiana

Registration is now open for individuals and teams wishing to volunteer with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders, who are working in east Texas to help victims of historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey this summer. In fact, teams are already on the way.

The Disaster Rebuilders are working to set up multiple camps for volunteers, but the first teams will be hosted by Houston’s Clear Lake Presbyterian Church.

Disaster ReBuilders leader Bart Tucker reports that locals and volunteers have done an excellent job of rapidly addressing the most urgent need after floods like this — mucking out homes to remove wet drywall, flooring and anything else that could allow dangerous mold to grow and fester. This means they already can focus on the second step — repairing damaged homes.

The Disaster ReBuilders will continue to operate from their base in Denham Springs, Louisiana, where they are helping residents still dealing with the after-effects of historic flooding that hit much of the state in 2016.

Meanwhile, several Fuller Center covenant partners in Georgia and Florida expect to be partnering with families who have suffered wind damage from Hurricane Irma but cannot secure funding for repairs through insurance, government assistance or traditional means.

To learn more about the Disaster ReBuilders’ plans or to support The Fuller Center for Housing’s Disaster Recovery Fund, click one of the links below:

Disaster Rebuilders information

give to the disaster recovery fund

President Snell’s Sept. 14 update on disaster recovery:

HARVEY UPDATE: Dickinson First Presbyterian a hub for flood and spiritual recovery

HARVEY UPDATE: Dickinson First Presbyterian a hub for flood and spiritual recovery

(Photo: The Rev. Kathy Sebring leads services outside of flood-damaged First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, Texas, on Sept. 3. 2017. See the Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the services here.)

Record rainfall from Hurricane Harvey brought five feet of water into First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, Texas — along with some unwanted visitors in the form of fish and snakes. But the Rev. Kathy Sebring said it also has brought the blessings of Good Samaritans eager to serve as the hands and feet of God in the community.

The church has long been actively engaged in several ministries to help the community of mostly low-income residents where it sits. With back-to-school clothing drives, a diaper ministry, ESL Bible studies, music lesson scholarships and a food bank run by M.I. Lewis Social Services in its fellowship hall, families have come to rely upon and trust the work of the local church.

Now, First Presbyterian of Dickinson has added a new role in the community — hub of flood recovery efforts in the area. Members of the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders have been helping get the church ready for its new mission, one that will include helping the Disaster ReBuilders coordinate its recovery work in the region.

“Everybody is working hand-in-hand,” said Sebring, a former grief counselor for a local hospice who was asked last year to helm the church. “The Fuller Center folks are providing so much structure. God is working through the hands and feet of many people right now.”

Sebring is among community leaders that are working with various organizations and church to help the devastated community, including the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders as a leader in home restoration. The Disaster ReBuilders are working to establish a camp in the area, likely in Texas City, where they plan to begin hosting volunteer teams in a few weeks.

That will be part of a very long-term recovery for the region. The spiritual needs, however, are immediate.

“Everybody’s faith is tested,” she said, noting that concept was the subject of a devotion by Oswald Chambers upon which she reflected a few days ago. “We have faith, but until it’s tested and you go through the test, you don’t really own the faith. If you go through a disaster or crisis and you come through it, it’s yours.

The Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders’ Aaron Ratliff comforts someone outside of First Presbyterian of Dickinson.

“I just try to comfort people and say that this will pass,” Sebring added. “This kind of thing will either strengthen your faith and you’ll have complete trust in Christ, or it can kill it. We’re trying to seek people who are really fragile and come alongside them and pray with them and listen and let them tell their story. We just reassure them of God’s love for them and that they’re not alone.”

While the cleanup and restoration of her church is ongoing, the congregation took a major step in marching forward this past Sunday, Sept. 3, when it held services and communion on the church lawn.

“It was so important that we get together,” she said of the services. “Everybody was hugging on everybody, and there were a lot of tears. It was really just an affirmation that we survived and God is good. We had a lot of offers from churches in the area not affected by the flood to come worship with them, but God just kind of told me that wasn’t the way to go. For one thing, most people’s cars were destroyed. It was very important that we get together and worship as a community and remind each other that, through God, all things are possible and we will go on. It was great and so good to see everybody.”

The church’s role as a community servant applies well beyond those who attend the church. Sebring noted that one family driving by during Sunday’s services stopped and asked if they could take part in communion. They told her they had not attended church in a long time but believe it is time for them to return.

A trailer of food and other supplies brought by the Disaster ReBuilders’ Aaron Ratliff and Katy Summers has helped begin to restock the food pantry, the contents of which had to be discarded after being flooded.

“People are hungry,” Sebring said. “We had people walking by and we’d catch them eating the contaminated food. We’d give them what food we had.”

She also recalls getting a donation of fresh fruit from a local grocery store. She was heading out to deliver some when a family drove up in search of something to eat. She gave them the fruit.

“The look on these children’s faces, it just broke your heart, but they were so excited,” she said.

It is the children that Sebring is especially concerned about as the long weeks, months and years of recovery lie ahead.

“Everybody that comes up and we give food, we ask if they’d like prayer,” she said. “So we pray with them, and they’re just in tears and then I’m in tears. I’m very, very concerned for the children. This is a low-income area already.

“So I think it’s very important that we maintain a presence,” she continued. “People are naturally used to coming here because of the food bank, but now they are coming for more than the food. They are coming for spiritual comfort.”

Give to the Disaster Recovery fund

Watch Sunday’s emotional service at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, Texas:


Harvey update: Disaster ReBuilders prepping to bring in Fuller Center volunteer teams

Harvey update: Disaster ReBuilders prepping to bring in Fuller Center volunteer teams

The waters are receding in east Texas, and the waterlogged area is beginning to transition from emergency mode to the dirty, extensive work of long-term recovery. Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders leader Bart Tucker said Tuesday that his group anticipates having a base camp established soon in the Texas City area, where they hope to host volunteer teams as soon as possible — perhaps by the end of September.

This work comes on top of the disaster work the ReBuilders and the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing is doing in Louisiana, which was hit with historic flooding in 2016. For now, the ReBuilders are needing people willing to sweat and get dirty mucking out homes hit hardest by flooding from Hurricane Harvey but will need their most skilled volunteers headed to their base in Denham Springs, Louisiana, to deal with ongoing recovery efforts there.

Fuller Center President David Snell was updated on the situation Tuesday morning and said that The Fuller Center for Housing will set up registration for volunteer teams to head to Texas as soon as possible.

“The waters are receding and leaving more hardship behind,” said Snell, who has worked alongside Fuller Center volunteers in Atlantic City after SuperStorm Sandy and in Louisiana, as well as in Haiti, Armenia and other places impacted by natural disasters. “Thousands of houses in the Houston area were flooded and will require that those houses be emptied so that damaged drywall and insulation can be removed. There is urgency in this as dangerous mold will quickly set in.

“The Fuller Center will be a part of this effort,” he continued. “Volunteer teams are lining up to help.  We have folks on the ground who are helping assess where our work will be most helpful, especially with poorer families who have no one else to turn to.  Things are moving quickly — we’ll have more updates soon.”

Be sure to follow The Fuller Center’s Facebook page for updates and to bookmark FullerCenter.org for news about volunteer efforts in east Texas.

More on Harvey and other work in our September update:

Give to the disaster recovery fund