On Sunday, December 14, and Monday, December 15, Somebody Cares hosted a mini-retreat for front-line Ike relief workers at a hotel in Houston’s Galleria area. Bringing in pastors, ministry leaders, and workers from Galveston, Oak Island, Beaumont, Cleveland, Bridge City, and other areas, Somebody Cares offered two days of rest and refreshment, concluding with a Christmas banquet Monday night.

Many workers as they checked in to the hotel commented how they had not slept more than four to five hours a night since the hurricane. Some are living in RVs, or other types of temporary housing. One guest said she slept for 11 solid hours before waking the next day! Others spent time Christmas shopping or on “date nights,” enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights in the area and the festive atmosphere.

      Rest was one of the reasons Somebody Cares president Doug Stringer wanted to host the retreat. The other reason was to offer an atmosphere of joy and laughter, based on Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like medicine.”With that in mind, Doug invited comedian and former Harlem Globetrotter Melvin Adams to speak at the Monday night banquet. Besides bringing laughter, Melvin also brought a word of encouragement. “I’m hear to make you laugh and to remind you that you have value!,” he said. Later, he added: “You are people of persistence, you’re men and women of character, and you have vision beyond yourselves. You didn’t just sit back and let other people do the work. You changed people’s lives.”

     The evening included tangible expressions of appreciation as well. Jerry Davis from Christian World Embassy brought a guest who is working in disaster relief in Myanmarr, and Somebody Cares was able to present a check for over $3000 to his ministry from our Myanmarr relief fund, symbolically representing the Gulf Coast of Texas sowing out of our own need into the needs of that nation. Doug also blessed Pastor Harold Jones with a personal donation of $2500 from the pending sale of his personal vehicle. In addition to the loss of personal property and the demands of pastoring in a disaster situation, Pastor Jones had been driving his son back and forth to work every day from Winnie to Anahuac. The gesture brought tears to Pastor Jones, an indication of the gratitude to see some relief from the strain and pressure of his family’s transportation problems.Paul Broussand and his wife Jennifer were also among the participants, taking a break from their work at the Good News Camp in Galveston. “It was a blessing to pause from our labor of love to fellowship with other Hurricane Ike recovery volunteers,” they wrote in a thank you card to the ministry.

Christmas in the City

On Tuesday, December 16, volunteers sorted and distributed new clothing donated by Metropolitan Baptist Church in Tomball TX to local families. And on Wednesday, December 17, three Penske moving trucks rolled in from Southlake, each filled with gift packages to be distributed in Bridge City’s three schools. All the toys and gifts were donated, wrapped and sorted by the body of Christ at Southlake.
“We drove and we drove and we drove,” Linda told 200 pre-K and kindergarten students at Hatton Elemenary school. “And do you know why we did that? Because you’re special!”

Teachers and other staff members watched with teary eyes as each child received a large gift bag with multiple gifts. Smiles and squeals of delight filled the room as the tearing off of bows and gift wrap revealed stuffed animals, dolls, Tonka trucks, games, and much, much more. The same scenario was played out in the other two schools, as 1000 children in Bridge City enjoyed a Christmas blessing they’ll never forget.The Blessings Continue Throughout The Area
Meanwhile, Somebody Cares chapters and affiliates throughout the Gulf Coast prepared for Christmas celebrations the following weekend. Hugh and Donna Young and Cornerstone Church/SC Cleveland were among the participants in a city-wide Christmas outreach at Stancil Park, where thousands of toys-including toys collected by SC Houston partner New Life Church-groceries, and free hot dogs were distributed on Deceember 20.That evening in Beaumont, Harvest for Lost Souls from the Somebody Cares Southeast Texas network held a special worship service and distributed toys and gifts as part of their Angel Tree celebration. In addition to needy families in their own church and neighborhood, they also collected gifts for the elderly, special needs children and adults, prisoners, and for the residents of nearby Orange TX, a community that was flooded during Ike.

The service started with preaching and praise and worship, including a dance presentation by the children, a mime performance, and even a singing contest. At the end of the program, approximately 75 families received their gifts.  In all, gifts for over 300 families were collected, with the rest delivered to the community of Orange on Monday, December 22. Over half the gifts were from Grace Community Church in Houston, as Somebody Cares was able to connect Pastor Kennedy and Deanna Andrews with Grace to meet the needs in Beaumont and Orange.

“Many people were blessed and encouraged as the evening turned out to be an opportunity to display the tangible love of Christ during this Christmas season,” said SC volunteer Alisha Saxon. One little girl named Amanda received a new bike to replace the one she lost in the hurricane. “They lost everything,” said Amanda’s grandmother. Many people who attended had been invited by church members but said they were planning to come back and make the church their home.

“I just want you to know that God really does care for you and that each one of you is very important to Him,” said Somebody Cares volunteer Joy Rivas to the congregation.

At Oak Island Baptist Church, two churches and some nearby businesses adopted the community for their Chrsistmas celebration, held Sunday, December 21, following the morning church service. With 150-160 people in attendance, it was a record crowd for the church.

     “We have an angel tree at Oak Island every year,” said Darlene Pagels, who leads worship at the church with her husband Mark. In the past, the church would provide gifts for about 20 children, but this year they expanded it to the whole community. “When we got calls from two churches who wanted to do something for the children at Christmas, Cindy Schauberger-our pator’s wife-prepared the lists with sizes and ‘wish’ items from 85 children. Some of these children will have the best Christmas of their lives!”
     In nearby Winnie, Rick Torrison and Pearland House of Prayer led the worship service for Pastor Harold Jones and Trinity Church. They also adopted the childrend of a single mom in the church to bless them for Christmas. In Angleton, Somebody Cares partners assisted Alex Monteleagre and the Hispanic Foursqare Church with finding toys. And in Freddiesville, SC helped Light Christian Center from Alvin locate non-perishable food items for grocery baskets.Toys for Galveston!
Throughout the weekend, Vickie Weesner and the C4C team in Galveston sorted gifts delivered by Toys for Tots and prepared for their toy distribution on Monday, December 22 and Tuesday, December 23. Families on Monday weathered biting cold winds to come shop for their children while the kids were entertained by a clown in the lobby of Church of the Living God. Before noon that first day, toys for 800 children had been distributed! Before the day ended, over 1000 children had been guaranteed gifts under the tree-if they even have a tree, that is.

“I had a woman call me up in tears,” Vicki said on Saturday. She had missed the pre-registration required for toy distribution and asked Vicki if there was any way she could still participate. “She told me they are living in their car and she was so upset that she couldn’t make a ‘home’ for her kids this Christmas.” Vicki told her that of course she would schedule a time for her to pick out gifts for her children.

C4C provides meals daily between 11am-6pm, including special Christmas Eve goodies today and a Christmas ham dinner tomorrow.

While Hurricane Ike relief continues in the Texas Gulf Coast, Somebody Cares chapter and partners around the U.S. meet the holiday needs of their communities as well. Chapters in New England, Tampa Bay, San Antonio, and other locations hold annual holiday meals and distribution of gifts or other needed items. SC Pampa TX collected new coats for 600 children, and Hosanna Church/SC West Houston collected toys that were distributed to Hour of Power and Freedom International Church for their inner city Houston outreaches.

New Year’s Focus
After the holidays wind down and the new year begins, the Gulf Cost relief focus will shift to rebuilding. Construction crews are scheduled to come in January to serve in Oak Island, Galveston, and Bridge City.

SCA’s Vicki Dalton is currently taking inventory of building supplies that were donated by World Vision, including sinks, toilets, interior and exterior doors, counter tops, and more. Some has already been distributed to sites that are ready to rebuild, including a home for one of the elders of Oak Island Baptist Church and a widow in the same community.

While general labor is still needed to meals, debris removal, and home gutting, the need skilled labor in building, sheet rock, electrical wiring, and plumbing will be continually increasing.
Please continue to pray for the Gulf Coast recovery! Your gift today [DONATE SECURELY]  will help us enter the new year with the abilty to meet the many needs for this monumental task! Thank you for caring!