When Hurricane Harvey swamped large parts of Texas in September, Pastor Sam Rudd’s home and Foursquare church in Katy remained dry, but his ministry was flooded by God in a profound way.
“It was probably the most Spirit-led experience I’ve ever had,” he says of what happened as Life Church (Katy Foursquare Church) opened its doors to those in the local community affected by the massive storm. “It was almost like a faucet turned on, and God was directing us.”
Telling of more than a dozen first-time decisions for Christ and starting a new Spanish-language service to minister to people who have started coming to the church—about 30 miles west of Houston—through its relief efforts, Sam says that his Harvey experience has “completely changed my perspective on ministry.”
Part of that has involved embracing the fact that when God is at work, things are not always as neat and tidy as we might like—whether that means turning parts of your church into a temporary shelter, or welcoming nonbelievers and people of other faiths to join in the volunteer relief efforts.
“This has been one of the best mission-field seasons,” Sam says. “People are more open to sharing the gospel and more open to hearing the gospel. There is just an intensity; there’s no holding back.”
Life Church’s efforts have been just part of Foursquare’s multifaceted and ongoing response to Harvey. Victory Christian Center (Houston Victory Christian Foursquare Church) served as a distribution center. Gulf Coast (Hitchcock Foursquare Church) visited shelters and helped clean out homes. Life Church (Angleton Foursquare Church) and La Vida (Angleton Hispanic Foursquare Church) partnered to serve more than 14,000 meals. Eighteen volunteer teams from out-of-state Foursquare churches have so far been deployed in Texas, with more lined up to go and help.
“It has been pretty amazing to see people set aside their own personal needs to be able to reach their community,” says Jason Reynolds, national coordinator for Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR), which has supported local church efforts with funds, ministry training and by sending 18 trained crisis chaplains.
Though the floodwaters have receded and national attention has since turned to subsequent natural disasters elsewhere, the needs—and the ministry opportunities—continue to be massive.
“People are more open to sharing the gospel and more open to hearing the gospel. There is just an intensity; there’s no holding back.”
—Sam Rudd, senior pastor of Life Church (Katy Foursquare Church) in Katy, Texas
Many people are only just discovering the full extent of how Harvey has affected them, as they learn whether homes and possessions can be salvaged, and what financial and practical assistance is available. And, as relief at coming through a crisis gives way to the grim reality of recovery, it’s not uncommon for people to struggle, says Jason.
“There is a grieving process, which is a time when the church can come alongside and be there,” he adds. “There is a lot of focus in our culture on rejoicing with those who rejoice, but it takes a lot of commitment to sit down and weep with those who weep, and we want to be those people.”
For its part, Life Church is continuing to host Foursquare relief teams, and may continue to serve as a shelter for families whose other short-term accommodation arrangements end.
“I believe this will be at least a two-year journey,” says Sam. “We are committed to the long haul of getting people back to where they need to be.”
“It has been pretty amazing to see people set aside their own personal needs to be able to reach their community.”
—Jason Reynolds, FDR national coordinator
Without discrediting all that has happened since he and his wife, Susanna, took on the leadership of Life Church seven years ago, Sam believes “what has happened in the past few weeks has been more impactful than all those years of ministry.” He and Susanna plan to pursue FDR training to further prepare themselves to be available to help with disaster relief ministry in other places.
Sam notes that God had graciously been preparing him and the church for what he says has been a defining season. Eighteen months ago, they felt led to start feeding the community on Wednesday nights under the vision “Receive. Feed. Serve.”
“Had we not done that, we would not even have had the thought of being a shelter,” he admits. “But because we have been serving 200 people weekly, it was a doable thought to us, even though we didn’t know how we would do it.”
Thanking Foursquare churches around the country for their prayers, help and financial support through FDR, Sam asks for continued prayer for wisdom to know where and how to minister, and for the Holy Spirit’s leading. “We have to stay in the overflow,” he says.