When Rev. William Lucas arrived at his new appointment, FUMC Mont Belvieu, he was greeted by blue tarps stretched over the roof. Inside, there were no floors. The walls had been stripped to the studs. The damage resulted from Winter Storm Uri; burst pipes flooded the entire structure. While months had passed, the church was still recovering – and had embarked on a fundraising campaign to repair its home.
In January, Lucas was appointed to serve as Senior Pastor at the church – starting in May. On February 17, he brought his wife Amanda to Houston Methodist to deliver their first child, Emma.
When they entered the hospital, the emergency electricity was turned on. The winter storm had shut down the city of Houston.
Shortly after delivery, Lucas looked at Facebook on his cellphone – and saw a posting from his future congregation. “Oh my God, Amanda, look at this video. The church is gone,” he said.
The pastor at the time, Melody Kraus, assembled members to gut the building. Everything was damaged, from the drywall to the pews. The preschool moved to Cedar Bayou Grace UMC in Baytown.
Worship moved to Fischer Chapel, the original structure on campus, which was not damaged by water. The roof, however, needed to be completely repaired.
Lucas explained that the town of Mont Belvieu was relocated after a 1985 explosion threatened the salt dome under the city, which had been used to store petroleum gas.
At the time, FUMC Mont Belvieu moved its original structure, Fisher Chapel, which dated back to 1933, to its current location. “They took it apart board by board,” Lucas said.
When he started, the roof of the chapel ended up being one of the first blessings received.
A roof constructed for the three buildings on campus dated to about 2002 – and weathered Rita, Ike, Imelda and Harvey. A hail storm last year was its last straw. Then, the winter storm hit.
The insurance deductible for the roof alone was $159,000. The church started fundraising, but the roofing company got started right away.
“Then, the roofers came to me and said, ‘We understand how important this church is to Mount Belvieu. We know you guys are going through a lot. We want to help,’” Lucas recalled.
They offered to reroof Fischer Chapel for free.
“I had to ask them to repeat themselves,” Lucas said with a smile.
He was in shock, but not surprised by the kindness in the town. “This is a small community. They help each other out,” he said. “And that’s just what they did.”
In mid-May, church members were invited to write prayer and scripture on the studs.
Then, insulation and sheet-rocking began. Now, the walls are taped, floated and textured. The painters are preparing to get to work.
“By the time this is finished, there isn’t one part of this building will not be touched,” Lucas said.
The crew finished the roof at the end of May. The wood ceiling in the church was repaired. The entire sanctuary was replumbed.
Still, Lucas explained that as the renovation continues, more and more projects are revealed. “The more we get into it, the more deferred maintenance we find,” he said. “Like, we have six air conditioning units that are older than I am – and I’m 31.”
The congregation continues to raise funds to make repairs. Already the South District of the TAC, other local churches and Interfaith Ministries have helped out, as well as individual church members. Still, more is needed to finish the project.
“My prayer as I fall asleep is, ‘Lord help your church,’” Lucas said.
The work is ongoing. He sends updates in a weekly newsletter.
“This is a big hill for us to climb,” he said. “But I’m confident God is with us. There’s too much work for us to do for the kingdom.”
When the building is restored, Lucas envisions a welcoming home for families in Mont Belvieu.
“I can’t wait to welcome our city into our sanctuary for worship and to hear the sounds of children echoing through the halls as our preschool returns,” he wrote in an update to the congregation. “Then, with a restored building, we can begin to launch new and vibrant ministries for children, youth, and adults that will enable us to invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.”
In fact, their fundraising campaign is called “Seeds for the Future.” Lucas sees the building as an outpost for potential ministry and a new season of life for the church. “We’re planting seeds for ministry,” he said. “Discipleship will be our main thing, and I think this is going to help us reach all these new families that are here.”
The restored building will be a symbol – that God is still moving in the midst of it all and preparing the church for a brighter future. “I’m hopeful for what God has in store,” Lucas said.