Light and Laughter Return to Temple UMC
By: Sherri Gragg
Temple UMC was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Now the church is on its way to normalcy with the reopening of their day school.
A Path to the Future
Psalm 91:11 promises, “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” It is a promise Temple UMC trustees desperately needed the first time they walked into their beloved church after Hurricane Harvey. The church where they had worshipped for decades, where they had celebrated marriages, baptized their babies, and found comfort in times of loss…was utterly devastated. When trustee, Charles Morgan, reached the children’s wing he noticed a large bag used to store puppets sitting in the floor. When he bent down to open it, he found a baby snake slithering among the ruined contents. The scope of the church’s loss was staggering.
Once the initial shock abated, the trustees sat down to chart a path to the future. They knew the vast recovery effort would have to take place in stages, and that they needed to prioritize where to begin. Ultimately, they did not choose to invest their time, energy and finances in preparing a space to worship, or in restoring desperately needed staff office space. They even skipped over refurbishing the restroom facilities. Instead, they made a commitment to complete reconstruction on the children’s wing so that their day school, which had served their community for decades, could reopen as soon as possible. “So many of the children’s homes were flooded, and the church wanted to bring some normalcy to those families,” said District Superintendent Alicia Coltzer Besser.
After careful consideration, Temple UMC set the goal of reopening the day school for December 4th. The road to restoration of the 8,500-square foot area was more challenging than they could have imagined. As Pastor Gary Williams reflected on the process, he readily admitted that there were days when he and his staff were not at all sure they would make it. Underneath the stress of managing the massive restoration project nagged the question of whether or not it would all be in vain. The staff knew that families had been left with little choice but to find other childcare options for their toddlers and preschoolers during the three months the Temple UMC day school remained shuttered. They couldn’t help wonder whether or not the children would return when they finally re-opened their doors.
A Church Triumphant
Against all odds, the reconstruction of the children’s wing was beautifully completed right on schedule, and with a full roster. “We had a number of people who had found something else for their children but when we reopened, most of them came back. Any spots that remained were filled from the waiting list,” Williams said.
Without doubt, the reopening of the Temple UMC day school is an incredible blessing to the children in the community. On the first day back at school, the children were greeted by a familiar, loving staff in a beautifully re-designed space. But the blessing was not theirs alone. It has been extended to the those who sacrificed deeply to prioritize ministry to their community’s children above all else. As the happy laughter of children once again rang in the halls of Temple UMC, it was as if the spirit of grief and despair that washed in with the floodwaters had finally given way to the hope of a bright future. “We had to work so long to get a win,” Williams said. “It was…joy. Just joy.”