Bear Creek United Methodist Church - A Lily Pad of Refuge in the Harvey’s Flood
As flood waters covered the Bear Creek community, intentionally diverse Bear Creek United Methodist Church became a “lily pad” of shelter and hope for their neighbors in need.
A Foundation of Diversity and Unity
Bear Creek United Methodist Church was established in 1977, and quickly became one of the fastest growing churches in the Houston area. The church soon reached an average weekly attendance of over 1,100 people.
But in the early 2000’s, growth began slowing dramatically. At the same time, the Bear Creek neighborhood demographic was undergoing huge changes as the once predominantly white community gave way to far greater diversity. When Rev. Leo Tyler arrived at the church in July of this past year, he found that Bear Creek did not reflect the ethnic or generational diversity of the community just outside its doors. It was important to Rev. Tyler to change that, and the church was ready.
Today, Bear Creek UMC has thrown open their doors in welcome to their diverse neighborhood, and merged with the Spanish speaking church that was previously sharing their facility.
“I tell my congregation that we are going to show people how to live in unity. We worship and serve together.We love each other. If you attend our church, you will have people of all ages and color praying for you and serving you communion,” said Rev. Tyler.
Loving and Serving a Community in Crisis
As Bear Creek UMC joins hands to love their community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, they are building on this foundation of unity. Rev. Tyler sees God at work.
“Through the way our church is leading this community in service and love in this moment, God is demonstrating unity. It is the opposite of what is happening in our nation,” he said.
Bear Creek UMC’s service and love has never been more desperately needed. The church, which is on higher ground than much of the neighborhood, is not equipped to be an official shelter but members knew they could provide a critical emergency stopover for their neighbors as they fled the rising waters- a place to charge cell phones, shower off, and dry out as they awaited transportation to a more permanent shelter. Church members have served long hours in Bear Creek UMC’s “lily pad” of safety handing out towels, petting dogs, reading to frightened children, calling local shelters, and pouring countless cups of coffee.
Rescuing the Stranded as the Waters Rise
Then, on Tuesday, the Addicks Reservoir was released and the situation became even more dire. As Rev. Tyler spoke to a staff member, Barbara Goddard, he realized that she and her husband, Darell, were in need of immediate rescue. When church members neared the Goddard’s street, they were stunned. Residents were perched on rooftops. A mother who had just given birth needed rescue. Elderly residents were trapped in the rising water as well.
They were all waiting for an emergency system that was so overloaded that it could not possibly reach them.
The water was so high that the Humvee Bear Creek UMC volunteers were driving could not reach the victims. Soon they returned with a boat, and began rescuing those who were trapped.
By Tuesday evening, Barbara and Darell Goddard were safe in the home of friends. “It is very frightening,” Barbara said. “You can’t imagine until you have gone through it. It was dry when we first got up that morning, and within half an hour the water began seeping through the floor.”
Drawing their Neighbors Closer to God
As Bear Creek UMC looks forward to the moment when Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters recede for good, they are also eagerly awaiting their next season of service to their community.
“We are waiting to see what our next opportunity will be,” Rev. Tyler said. “Our vision is to draw closer to God and invite others to draw closer to Him as well. If that is serving people a bottle of water, if it is providing this “lily pad” of temporary shelter, whatever it is, if it brings them closer to God, we are fulfilling our purpose.”