This will be a comprehensive update providing as much information as I can to our church members. I will begin by saying something to all our partner churches and concerned individuals around the world who are following our situation in Rockport-Fulton. Details on various aspects of church life will follow.
Information for Partner Churches and All Those Concerned for Rockport-FultonOnce again I want to thank all the churches, families, and individuals who have prayed for us and helped us since Hurricane Harvey. We are well into rebuilding and remodeling our property. In many ways our church building will be better than it was before. The rebuilding and remodeling should be completed by March. I think God is working on the hearts and minds of our church members as well. We are being renovated, remodeled. We will not be the same church we were before the storm.
There is still great need in our community. I believe that food, clothes, toiletries, and the like are readily available in our community either for purchase or from a few donation centers that remain open. In my opinion, the greatest need is housing, both temporary and long-term for those with a lower income. I think the situation is slowly improving, but there are many families still in need. At FBC Rockport, we are focused on getting work groups into the community for crisis clean up and rebuilding. We are not accepting donations of goods, except certain items needed for the crisis cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Those who would like to donate goods to Rockport-Fulton should contact organizations like the Rockport Relief Camp, Bethel Baptist Church, or New Beginnings Church BEFORE you travel to our community to donate items. Our church office will be happy to help you contact these organizations.
Two things we need at FBC Rockport right now are volunteers and monetary donations/gift cards. We have tried to help people as they transition out of hotels or temporary housing into something long term. Many of these people need help with furniture, appliances, silverware, food, medicine, bills, and the like. Visa or Mastercard gift cards in any amount are extremely helpful, as are cards to Walmart, HEB, or Lowes. We continue to host Aransas County’s Volunteer Reception Center (VRC), where volunteer groups are given work orders filled out by property owners. Those wishing to volunteer in Aransas County through any church or organization are encouraged to register at the VRC so FEMA can log all of our volunteer hours. Those groups needing assistance in planning a mission trip to our area can contact Jordan Mims at firstname.lastname@example.org. Groups can also contact Texas Baptist Men or Samaritan’s Purse for volunteer opportunities. Both groups are operating out of our property and expect to be here for a couple of years, possibly longer. The Long Term Recovery Group for Aransas County is expecting a five year rebuild/recovery process. If you have questions or need any help, please contact the church’s temporary office number at 361-230-0146.
Special Called Business MeetingsThere are Special Called Business Meetings for Wednesday night, December 13, at 6 p.m., and Sunday morning, December 17 during the worship service. On Wednesday, December 13, the 2018 Spending Plan will be presented and discussed. We will also have a proposal on a site plan for our property and where to place the Samaritan’s Purse building. The meeting on Sunday, December 17, will be a ballot vote on the 2018 Spending Plan. The vote will take place without discussion.
Christmas Happenings and Christmas Eve Service
· What Kind of Throne: A Christmas Musical of Worship and Wonder, December 9, 6 p.m. and December 10 at 9:30 a.m.
· Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions Goal: $12,000
· Joy to the World: A Festive Fellowship for the Entire Church Family, December 17, 5-6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Christmas Carols, hot chocolate, cookies, and the Christmas Story!
· Christmas by Candlelight with the Lord’s Supper, December 24, 5 p.m.
Wednesday Night ActivitiesWe plan to start Wednesday night activities for all ages on January 17. We will be more specific about what is being offered as we get closer to that date, but there will be activities and music for children of all ages, worship for youth, and a variety of Bible Studies for adults.
Sunday Morning WorshipThe new year will bring some new things to us in our worship time. First, our Sanctuary will be unavailable on the first two Sundays in January (7th and 14th) as repairs takes place: replacing the carpet, replacing (hopefully) the pew coverings, and painting. Therefore, we will meet in the tent for worship on those two Sundays, with Life Groups to follow as we have been doing. It will be the exact opposite of what it was like to worship in the tent on the first Sunday in September after the storm! Bring your chairs and maybe your blankets and let’s make the most of the situation God has placed before us. Second, Marcie, Eric and I have had discussions about providing more worship and parking space by going back to two worship services on Sunday morning. We could make this transition on January 21st. I will have more information in the coming weeks about schedules and worship formats. I think we have come a long way in building bridges and unity in our church by worshipping together, and I could not be prouder of Marcie and Eric, the choir, and the praise team as they have led us in worship.
Church Committees and Ad Hoc Committee on Church GovernanceMany of our committees are meeting as needed right now. The repairs to our building and the way our building is being used for recovery efforts will make it difficult to have committee and church council meetings the way we have historically done it. The church office is contacting committees when help is needed or when there is work to be done. If your committee has meetings, please be sure to turn in reports to the church office so we can keep track of what everyone is doing and then publish those reports in the quarterly First Family magazines. If you need me or Jeff to attend your meeting or to help with anything, please let us know. In January I will ask the Ad Hoc Committee on Church Governance to begin meeting with me. We were scheduled to have our first meeting around the time the storm hit. I will replace Jim Morrison, who has moved to Arizona, and then schedule a time for us to meet and begin our work.
Recovery and Rebuild EffortsAs stated in previous updates, we are hosting Texas Baptist Men (TBM) and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers, Samaritan’s Purse, and church groups as they all do recovery work in our community. Samaritan’s Purse will build and occupy their own building on our property, which will then be turned over to us when they are finished. TBM has been housed in our building, but we are hoping to transition them to a climate-controlled tent on our property. We will also utilize space made available to us from other churches. The goal is to free up more of our space to use for our ministries during the week. However, we will still be feeding TBM in our Fellowship Hall and kitchen as long as they are here. We will also house mission groups from sister churches from time to time this winter and spring. We expect to have mission groups staying in our building every week this summer, except for when we are doing Vacation Bible School. Therefore, I ask that everyone continue to be patient and thankful that all these folks are coming to serve in our community. We are doing what we can to make it all work. I ask the same of all of you.
Reaching Out to Our CommunityIf God is really renovating our hearts and lives, if we will not be the same church we were before the storm, it is right that we ask, specifically, how we think we are going to be different. What is changing? What will be new? I want to challenge all our members: individuals, families, Life Groups, and Ministry Teams, to ask God to show you how to be a part of the recovery process in our community. So many have been doing this all along. Here are some ideas that families, Life Groups, or Ministry Teams might consider:
· Volunteering in the VRC
· Volunteering with TBM or Samaritan’s Purse
· Ministering to the needs of our shut-ins
· Ministering to first responders in our community: EMS, Rockport PD, Aransas County Sherriff’s Department, etc.
· Showing appreciation and encouragement to local businesses that have reopened
· Showing appreciation for and ministering to city and county employees and officials
· Showing appreciation for our sister churches in the area
· Showing appreciation for and ministering to ACISD employees
· Making arrangements with the city, county, and state to organize work groups to pick up trash on streets and highways.
These are just a few suggestions, but you get the idea.
I find that people in the community are relatively open to talking with me, listening to what I have to say about Christ, and then praying with me. This is an ideal time to invite friends, family members, and all people to get involved at church and tell them about your faith in Christ. I would also invite unchurched folks to get involved in the service projects you plan. People want to help somehow, so let’s give them an avenue of service and build relationships with them in the process.
Church StaffI want to end this update by saying how much I love and give thanks for the paid staff members of FBC Rockport. I would make the argument that the biggest asset to First Baptist Church right now, the best thing going on, is not the worship or the various ministries, but the paid church staff. Without the faithful service of these folks, there are many things that happened (and are happening) in our community since the storm that would not have happened. They have done everything I asked and expected them to do. There were times when they, and their families, had to sacrifice for the sake of doing what was needed. They returned early from the storm and reported for duty. They have worked faithfully under less than ideal conditions. Now they are working hard to help our church resume doing the various things our church has always done while also continuing the difficult work of recovery in our community. They are doing this while being displaced from their offices. I have asked them to continue their normal responsibilities while adding the burdens recovery work in the community for at least the next year, possibly beyond. Not only have they risen to the occasion, they have done an amazing job. I would ask all of you to consider, personally and collectively, how to best show gratitude and appreciation to our paid church staff. Thank you Jeff Lanningham, Jordan Mims, Marcie Peterson, Eric Scott, Dianne Nielsen, Patty Albin, Maria Seaman, Pam Balentine, John Jenkins, and Mary Perdue.