For First Christian Church in Lake Jackson, Texas, there may be some irony in the connection between fire, the Holy Spirit and new life. In May 2016, their building was virtually destroyed by a devastating fire. The congregation needed a lot of prayer and help.
Within 24 hours of learning about the fire from the Coastal Plains Area of the Southwest Region, DCEF advisor Jim Michel was on site to provide DCEF’s Disaster Response service, which is designed to assist church leaders following a natural disaster with the immediate challenges of securing a damaged building. The service is delivered at no cost to the church and is undergirded by generous DCEF donors.
In the ensuing months, Jim worked with Pastor Cynthia Myers, other church leaders, the Region, Insurance Board, Week of Compassion and local partners to put the church building back to rights so the congregation could continue its important ministry in the community.
Nearly 18 months after the disaster—a period of time during which the congregation and its pastor coped with losing their building and its much-loved contents, unexpected damage from Hurricane Harvey, personal family loss, and the day-to-day stresses of transition and rebuilding—the congregation joyfully dedicated their building in November 2017. On that happy Sunday, after walking from their temporary home to their “out-of-the-ashes” building with its welcoming entrance, they praised God for “doing a new thing.” Disaster does not have to put the brakes on ministry, especially when there are partners a phone call away.
“Although there was grief in watching our church go up in flames and there were many glitches to deal with along the way,” recalls Pastor Myers, “working through the process with Disciples Church Extension Fund gave our congregation the opportunity to consider how best to rebuild for the sake of our children and grandchildren.” Describing the experience, she adds, “Jim Michel was there every step of the way. He immediately brought order to chaos, because he has the experience, he knows the process, he’s been there, he’s done that. His leadership for the Church is amazing. I’m proud to be part of a Church like that.”
“DCEF’s Disaster Response service is about more than restoring bricks and mortar,” says Jim, who has helped DCEF deliver the service to more than 30 congregations after the trauma of hurricane, flood, earthquake or fire. “It’s about helping congregations restore their sense of balance and ‘Holy Place’ so they can better focus on connecting with God and their community.” In Lake Jackson, a fire brought out in the congregation a deep resolve to be there for each other and those they serve. Pastor Myers agrees, “This has been difficult, but I believe that we believe in a God that set us on fire and we will continue to burn bright with the Holy Spirit.”