Relief funds help rebuild African-American churches

“We’re so grateful for all of you who are concerned about the churches on the Guadalupe and we pray that God will bless you and forever keep you.”

That was a recent heartfelt expression of thanks to congregants of the family of Redeemer churches from Rev. A.L. Taylor of Little Zion Baptist Church in Cuero, Texas. Little Zion Baptist Church is one of eight Guadalupe River congregations that were able to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey with the help of disaster relief funds from Redeemer.

It could have been much worse, as the hurricane came ashore in Texas and made its way along the Guadalupe River before coming to a standstill near Cuero, and then slowly moving east. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the record-setting flood in 1998 that killed 25 people and caused over $500 million in damage. After that great flood, Redeemer Presbyterian Church took a relief offering to help repair African-American churches in the area. Hurricane Harvey gave Redeemer another opportunity to provide funding to help with church rebuilding efforts.

As reported by A Journey Through NYC Religions, “Historically, the African, Hispanic, and Vietnamese American communities in Texas settled along the river bottoms. Partly this was a result of discrimination and segregation, and partly it was the result of economics. This is where their churches are. These communities seldom get much attention.”

The communities got Redeemer’s attention through Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions and also a Redeemer East Side member. Redeemer was able to pinpoint specific needs for church reconstruction and meet those needs because of Tony’s long-term background and knowledge of the Guadalupe River flood plain area.

These rural communities are sometimes forgotten or do not receive as much focused attention of disaster relief efforts as urban areas. Additionally, relief agencies have not usually aided in church rebuilding. And yet in these poorer communities religious groups are often the key to the process of recovery.

In one of Tony’s visits to the area soon after Hurricane Harvey, he recalled this story, “As we stood in the middle of a swampy forest of fallen trees, we saw one guy sawing away at the debris. He had a big old mosquito hat with nets and corks on his head. He looked at us, wondering who we were. We were wondering how we were going to get in touch with any of the church leaders. It turned out that he was one of the pastors and the city councilman to boot.”

What a privilege to come alongside Rev. Taylor and this pastor/councilman and play a small part helping them serve and love their communities.

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