“Winter is coming.” That is the phrase that Pastor David Maldonado kept repeating. It was a plea for help; a cry to God. Maybe both.
In August, Iglesia Bautista Jesus de Nazaret in Houston was struck by Hurricane Harvey. The church building took on three feet of water and almost everything inside was destroyed.
“We saved one of the speakers, two microphones and my guitar,” Maldonado said. “Now, on Sundays my brother-in-law brings another guitar that he borrowed and my brother borrows a base.” It is just enough to hold a worship service in the church pavilion every Sunday since the storm.
“It’s been hot on Sundays,” he said. “Ninety-five, ninety-seven degrees.”
But the church has seen about 50 or 60 congregating each week, down from 90-110 attendees.
Maldonado said his biggest concern is the approaching cold weather. It is one thing to worship outside in the Texas heat, but worshipping in the cold with families, infants and elders exposed to the elements is a completely different story.
“I would like to preach inside before winter comes,” he said. “It is coming in a month or two.”
Maldonado said that children aren’t able to be separated out to receive age appropriate teaching, and the teenagers are not participating in their separate, youth service, either.
“They all stay with their parents because we have nowhere for them to go,” he said. “I don’t want to lose the children and teenagers because it’s easy to say, ‘This church isn’t working no more,’ and then go find a church that has everything.”
Besides meeting on Sundays for worship and Saturdays to prepare for the service, the church meets Wednesdays for prayer.
“This Wednesday, we had to meet inside because of all the mosquitoes,” he said. “Thankfully it wasn’t too hot and with the fans on (they bought 10 new fans), we were OK inside.”
The church received a gift of 50 folding chairs that they have been able to use since all the church seating was destroyed.
Iglesia Bautista Jesus de Nazaret has received help from Westside Baptist Church in Corsicana and the Union Baptist Association in Houston.
“Union Baptist Association sent some volunteers to help remove sheet rock. They cleaned everything out and threw it out. Westside Baptist Church Corsicana has already come out a couple of times to help and they are going to come again next week. The help that we have received has been enormous and we are so thankful, but we are still in great need because this church is 20,000 square feet,” he continued.
Maldonado said that last year, the church had just completed renovations, spending all their savings to replace flooring, carpeting and roofing. Now, they all need to be replaced again.
“We need sheetrock, floors, insulation, paint, tables and instruments. It was all destroyed by the water, so we have nothing.”
Maldonado said that one of their challenges is that the homes of church members were also damaged by Harvey.
“We have four or five families who lost everything,” Maldonado said. “For the last month and a half, I’ve been taking the offering and giving them 100 dollars each so they can eat.”
He said the families have not received federal aid yet and he has been doing what he can to assist them with food from food banks and other churches. He added that he also has not been able to receive a salary from the church.
Maldonado was hospitalized five months ago for a heart attack and said he is living off his disability money. His house was also damaged by the storm.
“I feel weak,” he said. “It is a deep sadness to see everything destroyed; to see the church families who have lost everything. It’s a lot of stress. But I don’t give up. I preach like that, with weakness on the left side of my body. I prepare for church on Saturdays. I pray on Wednesday prayer and every day of the week. I trust the Lord. I say, ‘I know you have a lot of people everywhere, send us angels to help us.’”
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