Hope Stands in the Texas Gulf Coast
Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren, Woodlands Pastor Kerry Shook Encourage, Equip and Empower Local Pastors for Long-Term Disaster Recovery
HOUSTON, Sept. 18, 2017 – More than 400 local pastors from across the Texas Gulf today joined Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and Pastor Kerry Shook of Woodlands Church at two Hope Stands events, held at First Baptist Church in Houston and Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont.
The purpose of the gatherings was to encourage, equip and empower pastors for long-term recovery efforts following the unprecedented devastation by Hurricane Harvey across the region earlier this month. As these communities begin the difficult road to rebuild, the local church provides a foundation that can outlast any storm, and will continue to meet the needs of individuals and families long after first responders have gone.
“There is no life without loss; no loss without grief and no grief without pain,” Warren said. “You may not get over it, but you will get through it.
“This could be the Church’s finest hour,” Warren added. “If non-believers like what they see, they will listen to what you say.”
Warren noted that this is the 32nd disaster in which his church has been involved since its founding 38 years ago. Following Hurricane Katrina, he hosted similar meetings for pastors across Louisiana, and underwrote the salaries of 400 pastors who lost their homes or churches, so they could remain in their communities to serve. In addition, Saddleback sent 1,400 members from California to live and serve in New Orleans for the first four years following that disaster.
Similarly, Shook’s church was designated by FEMA as a non-emergency medical service provider following Hurricane Harvey, and serve as a distribution center for goods and services coming in from across the nation.
“This has been an opportunity to show what the church is all about,” Shook said. “Houston was first flooded with water from the rains, but is now flooded with the love of God through the church of Jesus Christ.
“Last week God reminded me that whenever He allows us to feel overwhelmed, it is an opportunity to turn to Him, and know He is with us,” Shook continued. “God is working in you, for you and through you. He will see you through. You are not alone; we are in this with you.
Rev. Gregg Matte, hosting pastor of First Baptist Houston, added, “Humility always precedes strength. Houston has been humbled, but as the rains fell, the church rose up, and we became Houston Strong.”
Warren shared with the pastors how to lead amidst crisis, and find the strength to enable others to go on. He also suggested five things they can know for sure and share with their congregations over the next 18 months to help them overcome the trauma of Hurricane Harvey, and not merely survive, but thrive.
First, Warren encouraged pastors to teach their members to release grief, as God’s transition for healing, which needs to be expressed and confessed, not repressed and suppressed. Second, to teach them how to receive from others. Third, to admonish them to not look for an explanation, or ask why, but rather live in the presence of God. Fourth, to stress the importance of rejecting and letting go of bitterness. And finally, to help them focus on what is most important – relationships, not possessions.
Members of the local host teams and attending pastors have been working tirelessly for the past three weeks, but expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together for prayer, fellowship and resources, including supplies, post-disaster sermons and financial resources and goods-in-kind.
“Many of us have been praying for revival in Houston for years,” said Rev. Clark Lowenfield, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Western Gulf Coast. “Revival can come about when we get to the end of ourselves.”
Doug Stringer of Somebody Cares Houston added, “God brings revival either by choice or consequences. He has brought us to our knees and wants the Church to come together and become part of something bigger than ourselves, across racial, denominational and generational lines.”
Founded in 1980 by Rick Warren and his wife Kay, Saddleback Church is one of the most influential churches in the nation. It has 15 locations throughout Southern California, four international campuses, as well as an online campus. For information, visit http://saddleback.com/.
Kerry and Chris Shook founded Woodlands Church in 1993. Originally called Fellowship of the Woodlands, the Shooks started with a vision to reach the families of their community with uplifting music, a friendly atmosphere and a relevant message that can be applied to your life. Woodlands Church has grown to three locations with over 18,000 in weekly attendance. For information, visit https://www.wc.org.
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