'We'll be here for the marathon'

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Sept. 1, 2017 at 2:42 p.m.

Frankie Falkner, of Burleson and volunteer member of the Southern Baptist Church Disaster Relief, stirs chicken in an industrial skillet at Northside Baptist Church. Meals are prepared and then distributed by The Salvation Army. "I've never been on the other side (of a disaster), but I know I can help," Falkner said.

Frankie Falkner, of Burleson and volunteer member of the Southern Baptist Church Disaster Relief, stirs chicken in an industrial skillet at Northside Baptist Church. Meals are prepared and then distributed by The Salvation Army. "I've never been on the other side (of a disaster), but I know I can help," Falkner said.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

In the early morning hours of Thursday, the Rev. Glen Dry spoke to a team of volunteers at Son Valley Ranch's Sportsman's Church and prayed over their tasks.

A few days after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Crossroads, arriving as a Category 4 storm Aug. 25, Dry, like many of Victoria's pastors, opened his church doors and grounds for a greater purpose - to serve those in dire need.

"We're getting calls every day from families in need, and we're able to help on about 25 or 30 of those calls," said Dry, senior pastor and founder of Sportsman's.

Almost immediately, Dry's members began mobilizing to serve the people: those without water, food, baby essentials; those with damage to homes from flooding, downed wires and trees.

Teams of volunteers have been showing up in droves, Dry said, ready to be put to work, cut down trees and do whatever is necessary to rebuild the community.

In a disaster of biblical proportion, it requires a biblical response," he said.

Dry's church isn't the only one to step up in recent weeks. Sportsman's is joined by Parkway Church, Northside, Faith Family, among dozens of others, offering cross-community services and borrowing from each other to reach as many people as possible.

Samaritan's Purse and Convoy of Hope were permitted to park at Faith Family, for example, where they opened their trailers to the community to feed and clothe those with immediate needs.

Parkway Church and Faith Family have been vigilant about organizing volunteers. Dry said tractor trailers have been delivering supplies each day to Son Valley, where teams are ready to unpack, sort and distribute.

"Everything you can think of is on the trucks. Think of a Walmart on wheels," he said. "We're getting calls every minute. That gives you an idea of how large-scale the need is."

At Northside, teams have also gathered. Northside also became the dormitory headquarters for Texas Baptist Men, a nonprofit emergency team, specially trained with chainsaws to cut down dangerous debris and clean up neighborhoods ravaged by storms and other crises, said Senior Pastor Darrell Tomasek.

"They'll be here for two weeks to a month helping the people," Tomasek said. "For us, our role is to empower them and serve them so they can continue to go out."

While power and water remains out for many across the Crossroads, other issues arise such as heat, bugs and mold. Gas is scarce and escalating in price; businesses are open, but not regularly, and supplies are needed for the masses.

Dry said for some isolated communities, area churches and their mobilizing efforts are key to serving people other resource crews have been unable to reach.

"For some communities, like Woodsboro and Ingleside, they have not been able to get assistance, and it may be weeks before they go online," Dry said, mentioning how many people are moved to tears from receiving packs of drinkable water because they're grieving the losses incurred by the hurricane.

For residents with damage to homes, it may be months before they're livable. Some with lesser damage are waiting for the water and power to come back on to take a shower and wash clothes.

"A lot of our members who have had their power and water come back on have offered their homes for people to come over and do a load of laundry or take a shower," Dry said. "People are really going out of their way for others."

Many churches in town continue to hold services as rescue efforts continue, even while the church itself may not have any electricity. Tomasek said Northside only regained power Wednesday.

"Our schedules have changed indefinitely, and how we're using our facilities has changed. Events are canceled, and I think most agree there are priorities to take care of people," Tomasek said

Agreeing with Tomasek, Dry stated plainly, "Everything has changed, hasn't it brother?"

Both pastors agreed they have been overwhelmed with the vigilance of care they're witnessing daily from area churches and the outpouring of assistance coming in from across the state and nation.

"It's really something to see everyone here from all over the place working to help our community," Tomasek said. "I don't think I knew how many pastors I knew from out of state until this storm. Now that they're all calling me asking to help."

Dry said he is confident Victoria's faith community is prepared to serve as long as necessary, even when crews move out of the city.

"That's how the body of Christ works. All these rescue teams, they're involved in the sprint. But when these big organizations move out, that's when we'll be here for the marathon," Dry said.


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