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Hurricane Harvey

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport, Texas, on August 25, devastating many coastal communities. Now a tropical storm, Harvey continues dumping huge amounts of rain (over 50 inches in some areas), with much of Houston under water and other parts of southeastern Texas along with southwestern Louisiana still in harm’s way (click here for an update).

I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and property in Texas. Thankfully, as reported by GCI Regional Pastor Mike Rasmussen, all our members survived, though some sustained property damage as noted in the reports below from two of our pastors in the affected areas.

Some pastors have asked how their congregations can help. As a denomination, we stand ready to assist our affected members through the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. At the end of this letter is an explanation of how congregations can help replenish the fund. There are, of course, thousands of people in the affected communities who are in dire need. I encourage you to help in any way you can. In the days ahead, I’m sure our members in those areas will be looking at ways to help, and we’ll let you know if others can join with them. In the meantime, I know we’ll join together in praying for all who are overwhelmed and especially for those who remain in harm’s way, including emergency workers and volunteers.

—Joseph Tkach

From Pastor Rodney Schuler

Rodney Schuler

Rodney, who pastors GCI’s congregation in San Antonio, TX, reports that Mary Bell, a 90 year-old GCI member who lives in Rockport, TX, is safe. Though Rockport is where Harvey made landfall, Mary is thanking God that her home suffered only minor damage (some shingles and siding torn off). Mentioning the damage to other homes in her neighborhood, Mary said, “I would never think of complaining!” Though still without power and water, her friends and family are taking care of her.

Rodney also reports that the city of Victoria, TX, was also in Harvey’s path. One GCI member there, Aaron Migl, was awakened around 4 am with a sound “like the roof being taken off with a jack hammer.” The roar lasted almost all day, with branches and shingles flying everywhere. Victoria was badly damaged and is without water, electricity and sewer. Thankfully, our members there are safe and already starting to repair the damage to their homes.

Hurricane damage in Rockport

From Pastor Mark Mounts

Mark Mounts

Mark, who pastors GCI’s congregation in Houston, TX, reports that, so far as he has been able to learn, only one GCI member family in Houston had to evacuate their home due to the terrible flooding. He also reports that one of our elders is in an area hotel, unable to return home for several days. Thankfully she has food and shelter. Such stories are numerous with thousands of people stranded due to the flooding.

According to Mark, during the worst of the storm, it rained in Houston at the rate of 5-9 inches an hour. He commented that in his 20 years living close to the Gulf coast, he has never experienced anything like that. He is thanking God that his own home remains dry, though a levee 15 miles from his home has been breached. According to Mark, though thousands of people in the Houston area are still waiting to be rescued from the flood waters, neighbors are helping neighbors and people all over the country are praying for the people of Houston. As Mark says, “we worship a powerful and loving God, and he is ultimately in charge, no matter what.” Mark thanks everyone for their prayers and says he will keep us updated.

Floodwaters in Houston

GCI Disaster Relief Fund

The GCI Disaster Relief Fund was established to help provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters. In previous years, money from the Fund was used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.

If your congregation would like to donate to the Fund, your treasurer can set up a one-time or monthly donation through the GCI-Online system (http://online.gci.org) by logging in and clicking on Donate under the Manage tab.

If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The donation should be sent to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
P.O Box 5005
Glendora, California 91740

4 thoughts on “Hurricane Harvey”

  1. Here is some additional information from Pastor Mark Mounts that appeared this morning on his Facebook page:

    I want to thank everyone for your comments, calls and prayers for all of us in Houston regarding Hurricane Harvey. I want to bring you up to date on what is happening and the best way to help.

    Our family stayed dry and we had power throughout the storm. Our church hall did not flood but did have leaks in the roof. In general the repairs will be simple. Now our focus is on recovery.

    Below is some information that may help answer some of your questions:

    1. At this time we only have one church family in a shelter. If you would like to assist our local members, you may contact Matt Morgan at our church home office at matt.morgan@gci.org to give financial donations. I am working with him to assist members that may need help as the full effects of the storm unfold.

    2. Regarding help for the city…I encourage you to watch the national news. Our governor contacted FEMA 10 days before the storm hit and that has made all the difference. Shelters are opening and as far as I know supplies are now available. Again, watch your national news and they will report on how you can help physically and financially.

    This situation is fluid and constantly changing. Right now the Red Cross and Salvation Army are VERY involved. If more help is needed from those outside the state and federal level I will let all of you know ASAP. Many here in Houston that did not flood are volunteering. I just heard that the I-10 corridor to San Antonio and the I-45 corridor to Dallas are now open. Freeways to the South and East still have limited access and priority is being given to emergency assistance vehicles.

    I know you have heard via the national news that there has never been flooding to this extent in our nation’s history. I could write pages about the experiences that happened around our house and we didn’t even flood!

    We worship a God who has a purpose that is beyond anything that we may now understand and He is in charge no matter what this world brings our way. We know our hope lies in a promise that will eventually end all pain and suffering. In the meantime, we love each other as He loved us.

    Ipray that we don’t allow politics, individual needs or opinions rule over the basic needs of those that are suffering in spite of their color, political views, or religious affiliation—we are all in this together.

    Once again, thank you SO MUCH for your prayers and concern. I will try to keep you up to date as things unfold.

    Also, please remember those to the east of Houston—they are now experiencing the power and destruction of this storm. Again, we are all in this together.

  2. Here from a veteran of helping out following Hurricane Katrina, is advice to those who might wish to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

    I wanted to offer a few suggestions regarding ways to help after such disasters. Some of these were learned, literally, the hard way. I offer them in love and thanksgiving for all who open up their hearts in any way to those in need.

    First of all it is imperative we listen to the folks on the ground as to what they need the most. At this stage they are simply trying to keep people alive and as frustrating and helpless as that may feel to us, until they ask for volunteers to show up we serve them better by waiting. One of the most difficult things we had to deal with was having volunteers show up with big hearts and great intentions, but with no way to sustain themselves and looking for us to provide them food and shelter. The people of Texas and Louisiana will need help and they will need it for a long time, longer than we might even imagine at this point. This is a marathon for sure. They will let us know when they want us and how we can best help and what we need to bring….

    Please don’t send clothes. Managing the mountains (and they were actual mountains) of donated clothes was a huge burden, and as kindhearted as people were much of what was sent was unusable…. They may ask for specific items, but the best way to help with food and clothing right now is by sending money. And especially as local businesses are able to reopen, spending money in the community will be an enormous help to them.

  3. Here is an update from Regional Pastor Mike Rasmussen sent in on August 31:

    I spoke with Gene Koch and Charles Hyatt in our Beaumont, TX congregation. They have been pounded by rain the past number of days, but everyone is doing OK so far, no reports of members suffering loss from the recent storms. However, many of them are stranded in their homes until the water recedes. Gene and Charles are not aware of any needs at the moment, but they will let us know if that changes. We have just learned that Pastor James Scales of the Beaumont congregation has had to evacuate his home, but he is safe.

    I’ve will have a video call with the leaders of our Houston congregation tomorrow evening. They will be discussing the next steps in helping with the clean-up of the neighborhood that surrounds their church building.

    I think, for now, we are out of the woods in the U.S. South-Central Region. Now our prayers and focus go to PD Kurts’ Southeast Region, which includes Louisiana that is now in harm’s way. Thanks for all your prayers and willingness to help!

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