As residents return home, pastors provide care in Harvey’s wake

The Rev. Thomas Wagstaff, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Rockport, Texas, ponders the situation in Rockport and how to provide worship without electricity. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Kevin Armbrust

ROCKPORT, Texas — “We are just returning to our houses and trying to figure out what to do next,” said a local resident surveying his neighborhood here. It’s a common refrain heard throughout southeastern Texas as people who left their homes return to find the devastation and destruction wreaked by Hurricane Harvey.

As those who fled from the storm return to their houses, they uncover the destruction Harvey brought and left behind. Roofs are missing or torn apart. Trees have fallen onto (or in some cases into) rooms where children slept not too many nights before.

“These people need help. They need basic supplies like food and water and help cleaning their houses,” said the Rev. Dustin Beck, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Corpus Christi. “But most of all, they need to hear that God is with them and He loves them.”

Smaller towns struggle

Texas is a big state, but many of its smaller towns are suffering. Towns like Rockport, Victoria, Refugio and Aransas Pass felt the full effect of Hurricane Harvey and now struggle to provide essential services for residents. Electricity is on in some of these towns, but in others power has yet to be restored as of Sept. 1. Houses and businesses remain in various states of damage.

One resident noted of the storm’s wrath: “There are no leaves.” And without the rustle of those leaves, Rockport has a quietness that seems unnatural in late summer as its trees stand empty, completely stripped by the storm.

Rockport has no post office either. Schools will be closed possibly for months. Parents have been encouraged to send their children to live with relatives outside the area so the children can continue school. This is not unique to Rockport. The situation is the same in many small communities throughout southeast Texas.

The Lord provides

Carl and Mary Jane McKay, members of Peace Lutheran Church, Rockport, were able to leave before the storm hit Rockport. Now that they have returned, they are working to remove all of the flood damage from their home. The ceilings all must be removed and replaced. Their entire house is covered with insulation. The drywall that used to constitute their walls is now debris that must be cleared.

“You just never know how God provides,” noted Carl as he walked through the wreckage in his house. “We are OK, and we will be fine.”

Those words are echoed throughout southeastern Texas as the bold Texas spirit and faith in God are evident even in disaster – or perhaps especially in disaster.

Communities are pulling together, and strangers are giving of their time and possessions to help those in need. And the needs continue to grow.

Serving as life continues

It is in the midst of this destruction and unease that the pastors of the LCMS Texas District met and then dispersed to find their members and to check on them. The Corpus Christi circuit pastors met with representatives of the Texas District to check in with each other and to coordinate their efforts to care for people to the best of their abilities. They also shared with each other their concern for those God has placed in their care.

“Life does not stop in the middle of this,” said the Rev. Steven Misch, Texas District Mission and Ministry facilitator. 

But most of all, the pastors fervently desire to care for their people and those in their communities. Their focus is on caring for people in the aftermath of the storm.

Thankfully, generous donations are being received and distributed as water, food and supplies become scarce. As more and more return to their houses and as more people express their needs, the efforts of those who work to give them aid increase.

And with that, the opportunities emerge to provide pastoral care for the afflicted. The love and the promises of God remain stronger than any disaster or occurrence that befall His people. In the midst of catastrophe, pastors share the comfort and hope of the Gospel.

Life continues, so these pastors who are working to take care of people who have lost material possessions, even those who work to restore their own homes, also are preparing for church on Sunday.

“I’m trying to figure out how to have an outside service this weekend,” said the Rev. Thomas Wagstaff, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Rockport. “We don’t have electricity, so there’s no way to meet in our sanctuary. I don’t know how I’m going to pull it together, but the people need to hear God’s Word, and I want to find a way to have church so they can hear it.”

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Is. 43:1–3).

Funding the relief effort

The primary need right now is for donations to fund the relief effort. There are several giving options:

OnlineHarvey donation form.

Text — Type LCMSHarvey into the text message field and send it to 41444. You’ll receive a text back with a link to a phone-friendly, secure donation form.

Phone — Call 888-930-4438 to make a credit-card donation. Calling hours (Central time) begin at 8 a.m. and have been extended to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8-10.

Mail — Make check payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” or “LCMS.” On the memo line, please write “Disaster Response/Relief” or “Hurricane Harvey.” Mail your donation to: The LCMS, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.

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Dr. Kevin Armbrust ( is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.

Posted September 2, 2017 / Updated September 7, 2017

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Reporter Online is the Web version of Reporter, the official newspaper of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

2 Responses to As residents return home, pastors provide care in Harvey’s wake

  1. Nomr Lutter September 3, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

    Orphan Grain Train is also helping and you can donate to that organization.

    • LCMS Church Information Center September 5, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Orphan Grain Train (OGT) is a valued disaster response partner and Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS that provided a semi-truck and driver to bring much-needed supplies to Houston Sept. 3-5. We appreciate the added disaster response capacity provided by OGT.

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