Jesus came to save us and show us how to be His body, the church, until He returns.
On August 28th 2017, my husband and I watched the floodwaters rise on Autumn Lane after Hurricane Harvey had already dumped 25 inches of rain in the Houston area. After just the first night of heavy rainfall, we were trapped in our neighborhood by a flooded bridge. Our side of town would go on to set the record for a single rainfall event in the continental U.S. An unimaginable 51.88 inches of rain fell over Cedar Bayou that weaves around our neighborhood.
At 1:30 p.m., we packed bags and hurriedly threw a few important things upstairs and on high shelves. At 3 p.m., our doorbell rang. Who was out walking around on flooded streets in the pouring rain? Our church family, that’s who. They had donned their boots and rain jackets to help us get to safety.
We handed our bags to our friends so my husband and I could carry our 4-year-old daughter and dog through waist-deep water on the way to a waiting car. There’s no way to describe how it felt to walk away from our house, not knowing what we might return to. Over the past year, that place had become a haven, and now it was in jeopardy.
The Body of Christ
A year earlier, when my husband and I moved to Baytown, Texas, for a church staff position, we came with our “perfect house” wish list in hand. We prayed for a home that God would use as a place of ministry.
What we got was a wacky 1970s house with wood paneling, a cramped kitchen, and outdated wallpaper. The house met almost none of my criteria except for one — it had a huge living room, perfect for lots of people to gather.
Soon we started hosting a small group from our church. That group embodied Jesus inside the walls of our home. We shared meals and gave thanks for new jobs and good medical reports. We cried upstairs for the loss of an unborn child. We prayed that God would bring salvation to a dying father and rejoiced at his funeral knowing he would spend eternity with Jesus. No one cared about our tacky wood paneling or tiny kitchen. They spent time in our home because it’s life-giving to be with the body of Christ.
For the Good of the Household of Faith
Three days after escaping Harvey’s floodwaters, we began the long road to restoration, and again our church family was with us. From rescue to relief to recovery, the body of Christ was there. Our earthly possessions washed away, but the family of God remained. The house that had sheltered us for 395 days again bustled with life and ministry even as its remnants were tossed on a trash heap in the front yard.
As Galatians 6:10 commands, the local church worked for the good of the household of faith. They brought food, packed boxes, tore out drywall, mopped floors, washed clothes, hauled trash, dropped off supplies, gave rides, loaned cars, watched our dog, took care of our daughter, and gave us a place to sleep. Every gift they gave in those difficult days mattered immensely. Jesus said His disciple who gives even a cup of cold water would be rewarded. (See Matt. 10:42.) Every sandwich, every pair of socks, every toy, and every expression of love mattered.
Love From Near and Far
Generosity poured in from God’s people all around the country. Family came from out-of-town to clean for days. Churches in other states packed trailers full of donations and drove down as soon as the roads were safe. Relief teams showed up to work almost immediately. Friends called to pray and give to the rebuilding efforts.
A week after the storm, I received a call from a woman named Flo in Atlanta. She told me she was a member of our church in Baytown more than 50 years ago. She saw my name in LifeWay’s Open Windows devotional book and wanted to know how Harvey had affected our church members. I shared that about 40 families in our church had suffered devastating damage to their homes, including ours. She encouraged me with the truth of God’s faithfulness and committed to send a donation to help our people, her people, get back on their feet.
A Place to Lay Our Heads
In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, I was reminded of our Savior Jesus who was born into this world with no place to sleep but a stable manger. (See Luke 2:7.) In Jesus’ adult ministry, a scribe said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Matt. 8:19). Jesus responded that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. Following Jesus doesn’t come with a security guarantee of our physical possessions. Harvey took a lot from us, but it couldn’t take the security that we find in knowing Christ and being part of His church. The walls of our home were gone, but the love of God’s people still surrounded us.
Jana & Michael Spooner live in Baytown, TX., with their daughter, Abigail. Michael serves as Worship Pastor at Rollingbrook Fellowship. Jana is a Bible and fine arts teacher at their church’s school and also enjoys writing and editing for several non-profit ministries.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (February 2018). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.