NEDERLAND–“Things really started to get bad on Tuesday night (Aug. 29). It started raining here, and it was raining hard. I kept thinking, ‘this is going to settle down, just like any other storm,’ but it didn’t. About 10:00 p.m., we were at our house, flooded in. We couldn’t get out,” said Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Church of Nederland.
Burden shares the same story with thousands of others recounting the flooding experienced from Hurricane Harvey.
He recalled how the first night of the storm his Facebook feed was filled with posts of friends going through great peril and distress that needed to be rescued from the rapidly rising flood waters in their homes. There was a complete feeling of desperation among the townspeople.
Though Burden’s neighborhood was flooded, the Lord blessed his church campus as a dry island. By 2:00 a.m., the storm subsided, and by 3:30 a.m., Burden made the trek to open the doors to the church for those that needed a safe place to stay. He could never have imagined the blessing this would be to his community.
At 8:00 a.m., boats began venturing out into the flood waters while helicopters were circling the sky. “We were in full rescue mode,” Burden said. “We were receiving boats full of people from all over.” Before they knew it, FBC Nederland was transformed into one of the city’s only shelters.
Transforming into a shelter for hundreds of people was no easy task. “We pleaded for volunteers, and the church responded beautifully. They brought clothes, food and volunteers. It was a great picture of what the church is here for and should be used for in a time of crisis,” said Burden. “We were able to wrap our arms around the folks from our community.”
By Thursday (Aug. 31), after providing members of the community with resources and a safe place to sleep, local emergency management personnel came to the church, helping coordinate evacuees’ relocation to permanent shelters around the state. But the church’s service didn’t stop there.
Once all of the evacuees left their building, the Texas Rangers Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety temporarily moved in. They stayed with the church for a full week, and joined together with members of the church for two different Sunday worship services.
Along with the Texas Rangers, Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief state partners from North Carolina arrived at the church on Sept. 3 to transform the church into one of many TBM/Texas Baptists Volunteer Villages. By Sept. 4, FBC Nederland was filled to the brim with Baptist men and women from North Carolina. They pulled in with a feeding team and set up a kitchen in their parking lot, as well as two shower units and a laundry units. The volunteers started a meal service line, and 15,000 meals were passed out every day to those in need in the surrounding areas, while crews ventured into the community to clean out houses - tearing out carpet and sheetrock.
For the first month of recovery, 150 volunteers stayed at FBC Nederland, and as time passed, needs increased.
Those needs were met as Texas Baptists churches, including First Baptist Church in San Marcos, First Baptist Church in Galveston, First Baptist Church in Lubbock, Valley Grove Baptist Church in Stephenville and First Baptist Church in Iredell, all rallied together to support the church and their community. Many of the churches were the first to show up on sight to FBC Nederland to offer help.
The town has been unified as the Body of Christ in their hurricane relief efforts, and Burden has been amazed at the opportunities for ministry. “There’s been a heightened awareness of the spiritual needs. This natural disaster has really humbled everyone in the community. We’ve realized how small and insignificant we are, but in the midst of it God has been showing us His goodness,” said Burden.
He continued, “When the disaster is over, our church and other churches are still going to be here and we’ll be seen as a spiritual resources because we provided physical, tangible resources.”
For now, FBC Nederland and countless other churches alike need help with the cleaning and rebuilding process. Burden said, “There’s nothing better for a church to do than send people into a disaster affected area on a mission trip. We need people to come down here and partner with churches.”
“I’ve never been so proud of our Texas Baptists family. Sometimes we feel alone in our different places around the state, but we don’t feel alone right now. We feel connected - like we’re a part of the family that’s coming together to make a difference by ministering and evangelizing to a community that needs Jesus. Come join us in the work.”
If your church is interested in sending volunteer teams to serve churches and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey, click here for general information and contact information.