“We want to thank everyone from so many different churches for all prayers!,” says Pilar Forero, pastor’s wife at Valrico, Fla. “We are getting ready, we didn’t have the chance to leave Florida,” she adds, noting that I-75, the major interstate highway through Florida is packed.
Iglesia Comunal La Esperanza in Valrico, Fla., where Pilar’s husband, Javier, is pastor, is working with members of the congregation to make sure they are safe. “We make arrangements for the congregation so they can be in a safe house, especially those who live in trailer homes,” she says.
Iglesia Comunal La Esperanza is one of 18 Grace Brethren congregations in Florida that have been preparing this week for Hurricane Irma to make landfall. As of this morning (September 9, 2017), it appeared the storm would track along the west coast of the state, where congregations are located in Fort Myers, Tampa (including Valrico), St. Petersburg, and Port Richey.
Most, if not all, of the churches, have canceled services on Sunday and are helping members and attenders to be sure they are safe. In Melbourne, Fla, on the east side of the state, Jason Brown, pastor, has reported that they have helped people board up their homes, as plywood is in short supply. They are also poised to help after the storm, with people who can help with clean-up.
Grace Brethren churches from around North America have come together to not just help in Florida but to come alongside the people of Texas during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. On two separate calls Friday afternoon, Barb Wooler, director of crisis relief for Encompass World Partners, reported on her own trip to the Houston area to access the damage and determine where teams could be sent. She later summarized the sessions on her web page, including contacts for churches who wish to send teams to the Houston area, encompasscrisisresponse.org:
Hurricane Harvey last week. Hurricane Irma this week with Hurricane Jose promising more “excitement” next week. And just this morning comes word of a 8.1 earthquake in Mexico.
“What in the world is going on!” many have wondered and some have said with a glance over their shoulder in search of the first Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Whether these events are the long-awaited “birth pangs” that herald in the times of the end or just an exceptionally rough time in the history of our planet, God alone knows. But there is something we can know about these disasters: God is at work on the fields of disaster and is inviting the Church to join Him there. We just need to view crisis through His optic, as this 3-minute video reveals, Crisis: What Do You See?
As C.S. Lewis said, pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world, to draw people closer to Himself and into His purposes. Yes, in all the things we don’t know, there is one thing of which we can be sure: God is powerfully at work these days in Houston, the Caribbean, Florida, and Mexico.
THE CHURCH IN HOUSTON POINTS THE WAY
These are times when the church can shine especially brightly, just as the Church in Houston is doing since Hurricane Harvey dumped 50+ inches of rain in their city. No one is serving in this crisis more lovingly or sacrificially than the church! They are housing people in their buildings, sending teams to drag out moldy carpet, gutting houses, sitting with heartbroken home-owners whose every possession is molding in a damp mess on the curb.
This is the time for the Church to shine!
How can you and your church shine?
- PRAY that God will restore the spent energy of many believers in Houston – and now also in Florida.
- PRAY that believers will share not just the strength of their muscles but also their hope, a commodity in short supply for people who feel they have lost everything.
- PRAY that churches in our Fellowship will rise together, and serve as only the Church can – meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Join a team or send a team from your church. We have three locations right now receiving team members:
- Bayou City Fellowship (Houston) – contact Scott from Akron Grace, email: Neoi@roadrunner.com
- The Brook Church (Houston) – contact Kevin from Ashland Grace, email: email@example.com
- Florida – still developing at this writing, but contact Barb from Encompass at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sending teams, tools, equipment, building supplies, cost money. We would welcome your partnership in tax-deductible contribution through Encompass at encompassworldpartners.org/hurricane