(PNS) As parts of Texas continue to deal with heavy rain, flooding and wind damage from this week’s hurricane-turned-tropical storm, Presbyterians are making donations through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) to help with emergency needs.
“We are very heartened by the response of the church. People are responding very quickly to the email appeal that went out,” said the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, PDA director. “We are receiving personal donations as well as donations from mission committees along with the promise to hold special fundraisers and Sunday offerings. People are saying they wish they could do more.”
As of Tuesday evening, the storm was still lingering over the Gulf of Mexico, drenching parts of Houston with up to 40 inches of rain. The National Weather Service reports some areas with as much as 49 inches, the highest total from a hurricane or tropical storm. Another 13 inches of rain is expected through Friday along the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana.
“We are still getting reports from the impacted areas on a piece-by-piece basis as congregations and presbyteries check in,” said Kraus. “There are thousands of people whose homes have been heavily damaged and we’ve heard preliminary reports of churches taking on a lot of water. At least one church is functioning as a shelter.”
PDA has maintained constant communication with Mission Presbytery which includes the cities of Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and more; as well as the Presbytery of the New Covenant which includes Houston, Galveston and Bay City among others.
“Members of PDA’s National Response Team are in Mission Presbytery now to begin assessment in the area where windstorm damage was the worst. We have another team waiting to go into Houston whenever the storms are over and it becomes safe to travel there,” said Kraus. “We are also in communication with the Presbytery of South Louisiana as the bands of rain deepen over Lake Charles and New Orleans.”
Kraus says PDA has also been contacted by the Red Cross for assistance.
“A group of 12 people who are specialists in spiritual and emotional care are on standby to provide assistance at Red Cross shelters,” she said. “We anticipate the 12 working with those who are on the front lines, dealing with trauma and displacement.”
Val Aldred, a PDA National Response Team member, lives in West Houston and is in constant communication with the team being deployed to New Covenant. “Basically, the whole city is underwater,” he said. “Even fire trucks are unable to pass through many of the roads. Right now, people in neighborhoods are helping each other anyway they can.”
High water has forced Aldred to leave his home.
The team headed to Houston hopes to be on the ground by Friday.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is the emergency response and refugee program of the denomination, committed to the long-term journey of recovery of communities adversely affected by a crisis or catastrophic event. It is funded by the One Great Hour of Sharing and raises designated funds for responding to specific disasters.
To support recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, click here. You’ll be taken to the PC(USA) website to donate securely and quickly.
For resources to share with congregations on support efforts, click here.
by Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service