When disaster strikes, the church responds, and when your church is located in the heart of some of the most diverse communities in one of the nation’s largest cities, it responds quickly.
Gethsemane and their neighbors in Sharpstown and Gulfton are on higher ground, so flooding was not their main concern. But they did have another problem. Many of their congregation depends on hourly wages to make ends meet, and they couldn’t get to work. Add to that HISD shutting down for an additional week, and you see a pretty difficult financial situation.
The Christian Community Service Center houses its southwest location at St. Luke’s Gethsemane Campus and already operates five days a week. Even weeks after the storm had passed, they saw a quadrupling in clientele. From food assistance to a special relief session of Summer Clubhouse for children, Gethsemane was filled to the brim with people receiving aid, giving aid and even people who needed help but also chose to volunteer.
Radical hospitality is not something that is new to Gethsemane. They are a community that knows how to maximize resources even when they’re not available. If people needed food, they could go to the church for a free lunch and free grocery items. While adults were receiving aid, the church threw an impromptu dance lesson and party for their kids. If parents needed a place to bring their kids while they went back to work, the church’s Summer Clubhouse program was available. As soon as there was a need, Gethsemane was ready to put their faith to work in love.
“At Gethsemane, we are ready for anything,” said Amy Kelley, Director of Family Ministries and whose daughter led the dance lesson. “Our camp framework is set up in a way that allows us to go into action at a moments notice. Staff and volunteers so ready and willing to step in and be camp counselors, teachers, volunteer recruiters and more, made it happen seamlessly.”
Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Acts 3:6
This is a verse that strikes a chord for David Horton, pastor at Gethsemane. “There are a lot of things that Gethsemane doesn’t have. We don’t have the fanciest facilities. We don’t have the best technology. We don’t have all the resources,” David said, “but what we do have is a whole bunch of volunteers through St. Luke’s. And we do have a vision of being this epicenter of resurrection for the greater Sharpstown and Gulfton neighborhoods. And we do have some incredible staff. If we have volunteers, staff, and a vision, what else do you need? On that, we can build a church. That, we offer freely.”
The Gethsemane congregation takes their vision to serve and uses willing hands to carry it out—even young teens who were in detention facilities and mentored by reVsion—wanted to do something. This is the church in action. This is what the people of St. Luke’s Gethsemane do best.
“I think Gethsemane and St. Luke’s as a whole really have displayed the best of Houston since Harvey hit,” David said. “We talk about Houston Strong. Well, I’ve seen Jesus strong, too. When you’re a pastor in disaster recovery mode, you have this special place of seeing church people at their very best. If you look at the churches around Houston, you’ll see the strongest people—those who are being helped and those who are helping. And it’s been a privilege to see that.”