Immediately after Hurricane Ike’s passage, the Rev. David Green, then senior minister of Galveston’s First Presbyterian Church, found himself somewhat out of pocket.
“When I was in seminary and graduate school, nobody ever taught me what to do when the community is devastated, the church building is unusable and you lose your home, all at the same time,” he said. “What I ended up doing after Ike, because the island was closed for a period of time, was to set up shop at a Starbucks in Dallas. We started trying to contact every church member by phone.”
Green discovered that there wasn’t a paper list of church members’ cellphones.
“It made my job far more difficult than it needed to be,” he said. “Every pastor needs a good list of cellphone numbers for everyone in the church. And it helps to have cash on hand for salaries and other needs.”
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski, vicar of Galveston’s St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church, 1410 Jack Johnson Blvd., was able to return quickly to the island where he found his work cut out for him.
“Immediately after Ike, I went with my senior warden to find our people on the island who did not evacuate,” he said. “With the church directory in hand, Bill Taylor and I drove to the homes of our parishioners. I recall driving up with him to Charles Lemons’ home. He was there, with some of his family, cleaning out the devastation that Ike left behind.
“It was a time to be with my people and to let them know not only that I cared, but so did the greater church. It is at times like these that the miracle of God becoming one with us is so real. Christ is not far off; no, he is right there experiencing what we experience, especially the pain and the suffering, the feeling of being abandoned.”
David Popoff, emergency coordinator for Galveston County, cautioned clergy against rushing into certain post-storm ministries, especially against opening your church’s doors as a shelter without first counting the cost.
“The images on television can be compelling — caramel-colored water flooding homes, people evacuating by boat, elderly victims crying, volunteers handing out blankets,” he said. “As a veteran of disaster response and emergency management, I have personally witnessed many faith-based organizations supporting disaster response and recovery only to become victims of the disaster themselves.
“Partner with an expert. Coordinate efforts. Be as prepared as possible. And expect some (property) damage. And always consult with local emergency management before opening a shelter before or after a disaster.”