By John Hall, contributing writer
During the first service at Westgate Memorial Baptist Church following Hurricane Harvey’s devastating visit to Beaumont, Pastor Raymond McHenry made a promise to his congregation: He would not shave until every one of the four dozen families affected by the storm in the church was helped.
A beard emerged across McHenry’s face, but it would not be there long at the rate his congregation is responding. The stewardship committee approved $1,000 gifts to each affected family quickly after the storm to provide some immediate help. Church members have donated items, given financially to the relief effort and helped clean out homes.
“We can’t do everything, but we’re going to do everything we can,” McHenry said. “That’s the mantra we’ve lived by.”
One night when leaving the church after a long day of service, a couple pulled into the parking lot. McHenry pulled up next to them and asked how he could help, as he knew their home had been flooded. The gentleman in the car was a police sergeant, and said he’d been wearing his police combat boots for three days. His feet were killing him. He’d appreciate a pair of size 9 tennis shoes – the same size the pastor was wearing.
“He was a church member who is about 3 inches taller than me, so the likelihood of us wearing the same size shoe was nothing short of miraculous,” said McHenry.
Without question, McHenry gave his shoes to the man.
“Anyone would have done that,” McHenry said. “To me, what it communicated to this family that lost everything was God is going to provide for you in very specific ways.”
The church’s response in the wake of the storm reflects its heart for others, McHenry said. They genuinely care about their neighbors and their community. They saw entire subdivisions covered with water and want to help the recovery effort.
“When we go home at night and we know what it’s like to be in the safe haven of our houses, we know how important that is,” he said. “We want everyone to feel that again.”
As a result of the congregation – and congregations like it – the hope of Christ is shining brightly in the region.
After feeling confident that everyone in their church was in a good, stable position, McHenry decided to shave his beard at their Fall Festival on Oct. 29th. “The kids in our church were really excited about it, and my wife was thrilled,” said McHenry. “But rather than shaving it that evening as planned, my staff surprised me and orchestrated for my wife to shave my beard after the morning church service. Our church loved it... and so did I!”
As of Nov. 18, Westgate Memorial Baptist Church has raised $450,000 toward their goal of $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.
“Bill Hybels has famously said ‘the church is the hope of the world.’ Come to Southeast Texas to see that happening.”
For more information on how you and your church can help those still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, visit texasbaptists.org/church2church.