Hurricane Harvey & a Cross-Country Friendship

Image above provided by Newbury Park First Christian Church

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston on August 25, Pastor Ken Lamont of Newbury Park First Christian Church was at home in California, enjoying the sun.

As he watched people scrambling to safety on TV, Ken asked himself, “Who do I know in Houston?” Immediately, he had the answer: Pastor Kevin Pigg.

Meanwhile, in Houston

Crossbridge Christian Church was spared from the worst of the flooding, but nearby neighborhoods weren’t so lucky.

“Within three miles of our church in two different directions, there were homes under five feet of water,” said Pastor Kevin Pigg of Crossbridge.

The church was perfectly positioned to facilitate rescue missions.

“Our parking lot became a staging area for about 200 rescue boats,” Kevin said. “We would send teams out, and they would rescue people out of their homes and bring them back to the church.”

“We would send teams out, and they would rescue people out of their homes and bring them back to the church.”—Kevin Pigg

These people had nowhere else to go, so they stayed at the church.

“We ended up being an emergency shelter for a week,” Kevin said. “660 people, 160 dogs, 65 cats, four birds, two bunnies, and one turtle stayed with us. Someone snuck in a couple of guinea pigs too.”

The church’s blessings didn’t stop with dodging flood zones. Kevin said the ongoing recovery operation has been full of miracles.

“One day someone’s boat propeller broke,” Kevin said. “The lady that was leading our operations, Teri, asked one of our people to put it on the NextDoor app, and in 15 minutes we had the boat propeller. Teri goes over and asked, ‘How did you get that on the app so fast?’ and the other woman said, ‘I didn’t.’”

They hadn’t even asked for help yet. But the thing they needed fell into their lap.

“Someone came by and dropped it off. They said, ‘Hey, do you need a boat propeller?’”

Over and over, Crossbridge’s prayers were answered right before their eyes.

“We had restaurants and people coming out of the woodworks, bringing us food and other provisions,” Kevin said. “Anytime we needed something, we would stop and pray. And it would come.”

But as the urgency of the situation dwindled and national relief efforts shifted elsewhere, communities in Houston were left to pick up the broken pieces alone.

They needed another wave of support.

Cross-Country Caravan

A couple of weeks after Harvey hit Houston, Hurricane Irma struck Florida. A couple of weeks after that, Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico. Houston was no longer in the spotlight, but they still needed help.

So when Ken watched the news in California and saw the aftermath of the hurricane, he reached out to his friend Kevin in Houston. “I’m watching this on TV. What can we do?”

“The first responders are leaving,” Kevin said. “How soon can you be here?”

 

Image above provided by Newbury Park First Christian Church

 

Ken’s relationship with Kevin in Houston had made the impact of Hurricane Harvey more personal. His congregation was eager to help, so in addition to talking about national relief efforts, he shared about what Kevin and his congregation were doing at Crossbridge Christian Church.

In the days following the storm, seven members of Newbury Park didn’t want to just send greetings and money—they approached Ken about going to Houston to help. So they grabbed a church van and drove for 26 hours straight, traveling 1500 miles—more than halfway across the country. The team had thrown a mattress in the back of a van so they could take turns sleeping without having to stop.

They had also loaded up with drywall screws, drywall tape, and drywall mud. “Those things are at a premium down in Houston because people need so much of it right now,” Ken said. “So we went to Home Depot and picked up a truckload.”

When they arrived, it was hard to believe they were still in the U.S. “We do mission work around the world, and I’ve been to areas where there’s a lot of poverty,” Ken said. “But this level of devastation is a different deal.”

The hurricane damaged more than 200,000 homes. Ken and his California crew helped repair two of them.

“The job was so big it didn’t seem like we were making much of a dent,” he said. “But we weren’t just there to do the work. We were there to be with and pray over these people. We got to let them know that God was caring for them, and that God’s people were going to be there to walk through it with them.”

The Newbury Park group was modeling what it means to be part of the “big c” Church.

“It reminded us that the church is way bigger than we often think about it,” Ken said. “We get so focused on what we’re doing and what’s happening to us, but this church across the country—they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ. We were reminded of that in a pretty powerful way.”

The gesture meant a lot to the Crossbridge folks in Houston too.

“What Ken’s group brought to us wasn’t just the physical labor,” Pastor Kevin said. “It was linking arms with another church. You have no idea what kind of life that infused into our congregation, just knowing that other people care. We love when people send money. It’s been really helpful. But when people take the time to come and link arms with us and do something, it really boosts our morale and energy level.”

Before the team from Newbury Park headed back to California, the pastors gathered once again for fellowship.

“We had a nice dinner for their crew after it was all over and had a chance to just hang out and talk ministry,” Kevin said.

Already the two churches are planning a time in the spring when another team from Newbury Park can trek to Houston to provide further support.

It was a beautiful picture of what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. And it all started with a conference.

Unexpected Friendship

Ken and Kevin’s friendship began when they met at CDF Capital’s leadership conference, The Ascent, a couple of years ago.

“We were having a dinner one night at the conference, and I happened to meet Kevin,” Ken said. “We had just had a conversation about church leadership and training our leaders. Kevin and I started talking and wound up exchanging emails. I mentioned that I had a really good resource we’d used before, and we had some back and forth conversations after the conference. If I hadn’t known Kevin from The Ascent, our church wouldn’t have had a personal connection to respond toward,” Ken said.

“If I hadn’t known Kevin from The Ascent, our church wouldn’t have had a personal connection to respond toward.”—Ken Lamont

At The Ascent, “networking” means far more than the surface level, short-term relationships you might expect from conferences. That’s because The Ascent isn’t just a conference—it’s a conversation.

“One of the huge benefits of The Ascent is that we’re doing it together,” Pastor Ken said. “We’re discussing the material, and as we do that we build relationships. And there are always other things that come up because of that. Things that are happening to our churches, and things we’re working through as leaders.”

You don’t just listen to a message and imagine how it applies to your church. You discuss it with other church leaders.

“The networking at the Ascent pays off in a lot of ways,” Kevin added. “As you get to know each other, you learn how other people have worked through your situations before, or you find that you’re both dealing with the same thing.”

For Ken and Kevin, those meaningful conversations sparked a friendship that stretched across hundreds of miles and provided comfort in the midst of crisis.

 

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