By Kaitlyn DeHaven, Baylor University student
Rose City Baptist Church in Vidor, Texas, was in the process of rebuilding its church when disaster struck once again. Last year, the church suffered a catastrophic loss when 80 percent of the church burned down in a fire. Before Hurricane Harvey hit, it was three weeks away from reopening.
Tony Wilcoxson, pastor of Rose City Baptist, said that while there was a lot of hurt and pain that happened in his community, this aspect actually happened to be a blessing in disguise, because they had just put a new septic system in, which had provided them with 20,000 pounds of sand that could be used in damage resistance.
“The storm allowed people to know what our church is,” Wilcoxson said. “It led to being able to pray with a lot of people and lead people to Christ. God drew people here. It really let our church to shine within the community and show that we care about people.”
Amid this blessing, many of the members of the church are struggling because they did not have hurricane insurance due to high annual prices of the insurance. Wilcoxson said many of his members have had their homes completely wiped out and were denied FEMA insurance.
As for Wilcoxson and his family, they are currently living in the home of one of the members of the church, as their house was also wiped out in the ferocious storm.
Wilcoxson said in the days and the hours of the storm, he went into full survival mode just trying to keep people alive. Many people kept repeating that they were going to be OK and that big storms had hit the city before without any consequences, but all that changed when they opened the dams.
“What nobody could picture is what was coming down the river from the dams,” Wilcoxson said. “It was rising a foot and a half each hour. It just kept coming.”
He and his family continued to try to save lives up to the minute when they realized that they and their home was in danger also.
“It was so fast — the change from trying to help other people to trying to save our own family. We didn’t have time to pack anything,” Wilcoxson said. “We grabbed two cats, threw them in a kennel and grabbed a couple of bags that already had clothes in them and we left — we left everything.”
Wilcoxson said one of the necessities their community is currently lacking is manpower and support. He said that while people are willing and happy to help, the work is too large and they don’t have enough people with the capacity to help.
He said that one of the most practical ways that they could be aided is by having a team of members come down and join them, even if it’s for a short amount of time.
“Sending a team of folks down to encourage, even if it’s just for one weekend, could be a blessing, just so that the people down here don’t feel alone.” Wilcoxson said. “Even though we’re all helping each other, and it’s really building the community. God has been evident in everything that He’s doing, and it’s still a breath of fresh air when you have someone from another place, another church, another area to come down here and bear this burden with us.”
Wilcoxson also said the main things the church is struggling with are the financial and material aspects, as many people have lost everything. He said that the monetaryimpact the hurricane has had on the community is not only affecting the members and the church, but his family as well. He said that any help from a church would be a blessing to the members of his own church and would give them hope.
“With a church coming up and adopting or working next to a church like ours takes away some stress off of me and my family, it takes some stress of the church away by letting us know that people do care, and in the end, it allows us to continue to minister to our community instead of us just focusing on ourselves,” Wilcoxson said. “When we have some other people helping, that allows us to go meet the needs of the community and be there for them in this desperate time of need.”
If your church would like to start a Church2Church partnership with Rose City Baptist Church, please visit texasbaptists.org/church2church. Texas Baptists has assembled a list of churches in need who were affected by Hurricane Harvey and is looking for churches to come alongside and aid them in their recovery process.