In August, Hurricane Harvey deluged Houston with three feet of rain, flooding homes across America’s fourth-largest city. Up to 30 percent of Harris County was under water, and the drainage bayou next to Templo Aposento Alto (Upper Room Assembly/LifeCity Church) in North Houston filled to the brim. But miraculously, the Assemblies of God church and the homes of nearly all its families remained dry, with minimal damage from the devastating storm.
“We thank God for that because that's why we were able to be a distribution center,” says Patsy Rodriguez, who co-pastors Aposento Alto with her husband, Texas Louisiana Hispanic District Superintendent J.R. Rodriguez.
During the crisis, Templo Aposento Alto had no time to post signs to announce that the church provided relief. Word of mouth drew both those in need as well as donors with essentials. Aposento Alto’s gym filled with supplies contributed by AG congregations and other churches. In addition, organizations such as Convoy of Hope provided neighborhood residents with food, water, and other desperately needed supplies. Urban Strategies sent truckloads of goods.
For two months, thousands in Houston’s Little York and Hidden Valley area — typically single moms who speak only Spanish and would not have otherwise approached the church — received life-sustaining aid from Aposento Alto.
“God just kept supplying,” Rodríguez says.
Six months after the historic storm battered the Texas Gulf Coast — now deemed second to Hurricane Katrina among costliest natural disasters in the United States — many of those to whom Aposento Alto provided aid lost everything. Only 15 percent of Houston residents had flood insurance.
“They're in survival mode,” says Rodríguez, 56. By and large, “They don't have church in mind.”
Since then, a 45-member, mostly female, team from the church of 1,000 has followed up with 300 families on Tuesdays to ask how they’re faring. They phone, text, and leave voicemail messages. They visit homes to pray. They also bring personal invitations to church programs, including Sunday services, a prayer class, and a Tuesday Bible study designated for those interested in learning more about God’s Word.
Rodriguez says Harvey aid recipients are coming to church, little by little. Some have made salvation decisions for Christ, plugging into the church’s new beginnings class, from which 12 people recently graduated.
Elisa Cisneros, who heads the church’s follow-up ministry, including the Hurricane Harvey outreach, says that while these people initially came for humanitarian help, they're now drawn to the Lord. In late March, a woman and a married couple who connected with the church through Hurricane Harvey relief placed their faith in Christ.
The program has mobilized the church as never before, Cisneros says, connecting those still requiring help with congregants through an “adopt a family” program for ongoing needs. Cisneros believes the stream from Harvey will turn into more lives positively impacted by the gospel.
“I have every hope that these people are going to keep coming,” Cisneros says. “They're impacted by the help the church has brought them.”