Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the beginning of a very interesting time in the history of my beloved Houston. We have seen thousands loose everything, and thousands of others ( Christians included ) rise to the occasion. That early summer day, Tropical storm Allison came to visit. There was some damage that Tuesday, but the storm moved quickly. Overall as such storms go it was close to the best case scenario.

Then came Friday, and Allison returned. This time from the north, this time moving slowly. At one point the storm became stationary. Over $2.3 billion in damages ! Tens of thousands of people forced from their homes. Several major hospitals closed, just when they may be needed most. One Memorial Herman with over 500 beds is still closed two weeks later. Every major highway, and dozens of major surface streets covered in high water. At least 21 lives were lost. In less than a week the best case scenario, became a community nightmare.

However even before the rain stopped, stories of Christian compassion, and service to others began to be written. At Lakewood Church one of the largest nondenominational churches in America, about 75 people had gathered for a couples class. By the time they got ready to leave the waters had risen so high they were stranded. Lakewood's facility remained high and dry in the middle of one of the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees from the mighty storm began arriving at their doorstep. Without need of official sanction, and no advance preparation, those 75 classmates began a disaster shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 clients. The largest of over 30 shelters that would be set up at the height of the storm.

Later Lakewood served as a Red Cross Service Center where assistance was doled out to those who had suffered losses. When it became apparent that Red Cross, and FEMA assistance would not bring relief soon enough, Lakewood combined with Second Baptist-Houston to create an adopt a family program to help get people on their feet faster. In the days that followed armies of Christians arrived at the two churches. From all over town, people of every denomination, race, and economic status gathered. Wet rotted carpets were pulled up, sheet rock removed. Mountains of donated food, clothing and bedding were distributed. Cleaning supplies and elbow grease were used to begin erasing traces of the damage.

If the story stopped here, it would be a great example of practical ministry in a time of crisis, but it continues. Many other churches served as shelters and in the days that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Dozens of new volunteers, many of them Christians were put through accelerated training, and put to work. Uniformed scouts, many of them Christians, many of them from troops sponsored by churches and other religious groups, walked up and down many flights of stairs to deliver supplies in large darkened Hospitals which had lost power.

I was trapped in my own subdivision that Saturday. That Sunday, certain that my family was safe I worked at the shelter nearest my house. There I had clients of the shelter, victims themselves offer to help sort clothes, set up cots, do anything they could to fight the storm that had taken lifetimes of belongings. What they would not allow the storm to do, is take their faith, their need to contribute, or their self respect. I saw so many people praising the Lord as they brought donations of food, clothing and bedding. I saw young children coming with their parents to happily donate old, seldom used toys to children who now had none. Unity Church of Christianity from an area across town less affected by the storm sent a large supply of bedding and other supplies. A small troupe Christian of clowns and musicians arrived and asked to be allowed to entertain the children at the shelter where I served. We of course immediately accepted their offer to serve. They gathered the children in a large empty space of floor. They sang, they told stories, they even made balloon animals. The children, scared, at least temporarily homeless laughed.

When not busy elsewhere I did a lot of listening. I listened to frustrated survivors, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to children try to make the most of a situation they couldn't understand. These are just the stories I personally have heard or witnessed. I know that many other individual Christians, Churches, and religious groups served admirably. I just don't have the details close at hand. I do want to thank them for the efforts in crisis. I thank The Lord for providing them to serve.

I did not write this so you would feel sorry for Houston, or its people. Thousands in my community are still struggling to recover. However what I saw as this crisis unfolded reinforced my faith that the Lord will provide for us through our brothers and sisters in faith. What I do want everyone who reads this to learn, is what I call the lesson of Allison. No matter how bad the crisis that strikes your community, you the individual Christian can be part of the solution. Those blankets you have stored away, and will likely never use mean so much to those who have none. If you can drive you can help. If you can set up a cot you can help. If you can scrub a wall you can help. If all you can do is sit and listen, you can help. Big disasters like Allison get a lot of attention. But a crisis can come in any size. If a single house burns, that's a major crisis to the family that called it home. The lesson of Allison is that in serving each other, we serve our Lord. Our example of service provides a shining testament to the unsaved. It will be generations before the people here forget Allison. I pray that the community of faith who calls themselves Christians never forget the practical ministry of service.

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield is an ordained bi-vocational minister based in Katy, Texas outside Houston. He has served as both Chaplain General and Governor General of the Order of St. Isidore of Seville.He also has served as chaplain of his local fire department, and spends much of his ministry time working with first responders, and victims of crisis situations. He currently is working to organize Compassion Church of Katy, a new church in his community of which he will be pastor.