Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, one of the largest churches in the U.S., has issued a statement about its plans to offer Texans aid amid severe flooding caused by Harvey.
After intense criticism was leveled against the nondenominational ministry online, Lakewood Church issued a statement clarifying how it plans to aid locals impacted by the storm.
The public statement published to Lakewood Church’s website:
Dear Lakewood Church family,
We want to let you know that our hearts are with each of you and your families during this difficult time. We are praying for you and we are praying for our city, and for all of those affected by the devastating flooding and rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. We love you and we love this city. And we want to help.
Over the last couple of days, as the enormity of this storm was being realized, we have been working to organize relief efforts for the Houston area with our friend Franklin Graham and the disaster relief organization that he oversees, Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse has been, since it’s inception, organized to respond to situations just like Hurricane Harvey, and we are grateful to be able to partner with them to provide assistance to the Houston area.
We know the need is great. That much is clear. We do not yet know all the ways we can help. However if you would like to register to volunteer with us, please do so by clicking here. Or, if you would like to donate to our relief efforts, please do so here. We are working just as fast as we can on this and will update you with more information as it becomes available.
In the meantime, know that our prayers for strength and comfort for each of you will continue, as well as our prayers for God’s help as we navigate the upcoming days and months together.
We love you. And we are praying. Together, we will make it through this difficult time.
A public statement attributed to Pastor Osteen and his wife, Victoria Osteen, was also published on Facebook:
Our hearts are breaking as we see the images of the damage and destruction in our city and the surrounding areas from Hurricane Harvey. We are praying for everyone’s safety in Houston and Texas. As a community we can help each other get through this storm. We appreciate your prayers, both for our city and for Lakewood Church. We are working diligently with the city of Houston to mobilize our many volunteers at shelters around the city as well as various other points of need in and around the Houston area. In addition, we are working with Samaritan’s Purse on major relief efforts. In the days ahead, the needs in our city will be great and we are mobilizing even more volunteers to help those who have been devastated by this storm.
While no one could have anticipated how severe this storm would be, we are thankful for the heroic efforts of our police officers, fire department, first responders, and the many volunteers across our state. We are also thankful for the City of Houston and Harris County officials who were wise enough to prepare accordingly, both in rescue preparations and in sheltering the displaced. We are honored to support them in their efforts.
Victoria and I believe we will all come out stronger and filled with a greater faith than before. We love you and continue to pray for all of Houston and Texas.
The Osteens’ statement concluded by pointing Facebook supporters to LakewoodChurch.com/Relief. On the Hurricane Relief page, visitors are invited to make a monetary donation and register to volunteer with the church and Samaritan’s Purse to aid in relief efforts.
Despite criticism leveled against the megachurch over the weekend, Lakewood Church does have a track record of rallying aid for locals during prior disasters. In addition to hosting a benefit concert after 2016’s devastating floods, the megachurch sheltered about 5,000 displaced Texans in 2001 after a tropical storm left Houston with more than 30 inches of rain.
Other Texas churches, similarly impacted by Harvey, also canceled services on Saturday and Sunday. Some church leaders called on congregants to help gather resources, while also encouraging them to pray.
Meteorologists have described the damage caused by Harvey as unprecedented. The storm, initially a category 4 hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm, has claimed at least five lives.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot activated the entire Texas National Guard, reports The Texas Tribune. The activation brings the full number of personnel focused on rescue efforts to 12,000.
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” the governor said in a released statement.
As images of desperate rescues from the flood waters have emerged, the National Weather Service reported Monday that Harvey brought more than 25 inches of rain to parts of Texas since the system hit the region last Thursday.
“Another 10 to 20 inches is expected over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana. Storm totals in some locations may approach 50 inches. This is producing devastating flooding,” the National Weather Service reported.
President Trump was scheduled to visit Texas on Tuesday, according to the White House.
Photo by Texas Military Department