Churches, Ministries Providing Sanctuary During Historic Winter Blast


This article will be updated as more information is obtained. If your church or organization, or one you know of, is assisting in any way, please email editor@spiritofabilene.com and that information will be added. Include name of church, contact info, what you’re doing, and if volunteers and/or supplies are needed.

By LORETTA FULTON

Churches and ministries in Abilene and the surrounding area are coming to the rescue as the historic winter storm lingers, causing power outages and water issues.

Some churches are preparing meals for people being housed in warming centers and others are opening their doors to house people temporarily.

“It’s been a full day, for sure,” John Moore, pastor for missions at First Baptist Church, said Wednesday evening.

The church’s City Light Community Ministries served its normal Wednesday lunch, and First Baptist opened one of its buildings to temporarily house displaced people. All the First Baptist campus lost power and the main building is still “dark.” But power has been restored at the City Light Community Ministries and University Place buildings. The “UP,” as it’s called, is being used for temporary housing. Guests are expected to be in the building through Friday, Moore said. The city provided cots and City Light Community Ministries is providing meals.

One function of City Light is a Culinary Academy, which is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. But the head chef, Kayleen Mills or “Chef Kay” and an assistant, Caitlin Wallace, had prepared frozen meals the past two weeks for people suffering from COVID-related issues, Moore said, and those meals are being served to the people being temporarily housed.

“We dipped into those,” Moore said Wednesday, “to take care of the evening meal.”

Enough of those meals remain to provide meals for a few more days. City Light also had a supply of bottled water, which is being used for cooking and drinking. Moore said he expects the temporary housing and meal preparation will continue through Friday afternoon.

Crescent Heights Baptist Church opened its fellowship hall Monday–and for the foreseeable future–to children and staff from Harmony Family Services, which suffered loss of power and water. Jamie Breed, executive director at Harmony and pianist of forty years at Crescent Heights, said eight children ages 10 to 17 packed up bedding and food to take to the church. Staff members are staying at the church, too, on a rotating basis, Breed said.

“It’s just been a godsend for us,” she said.

The displacement was made easier when the kids discovered the fellowship hall has a big screen TV, perfect for the whole group to watch movies.

As a precaution, water was stored in containers Monday to be boiled for consumption, but the church never lost water completely so the restrooms were usable. The group may be at the church for a while after the sprinkler system at Harmony sprung a leak. The water will be shut off until the problem is fixed. Breed is grateful and proud of her home church for providing a safe, warm place for the children to stay temporarily.

“So far,” she said, “everything is just working out fabulously.”

Both campuses of Beltway Church are open 24 hours “as long as they’re needed” during this winter blast. Geoffrey Turner, pastor of the North Campus, said both campuses will be open 24 hours a day to take people in. The north campus is located at 2850 Highway 351 and the south campus is at 4009 Beltway South. Call 325-692-6540 or email info@beltway.org to assist.

The city, Love & Care Ministries, Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, the American Red Cross, United Rescue Alliance headquartered at the former Camp Barkeley site, and others are assisting with food and supplies, but more help would be welcomed.

“Really, the biggest need right now is blankets,” Turner said.

Love & Care Ministries provided about 300 blankets Tuesday to nursing homes and to Beltway, said Mark Hewitt, executive director of Love & Care. Larry Tarver, director of missions for the Abilene-Callahan Baptist Association, said First Baptist in Clyde and in Baird also are assisting.

FBC Clyde was contacted by the city to be ready to provide shelter due to a lack of water. FBC Baird also is preparing due to the same water situation that is plaguing Abilene and all the communities that buy treated water from Abilene.

In Abilene, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, New Hope Church, First Baptist Church, and Broadview Baptist Church welcomed people to come in an warm up.

Among others responding to the call for help early Tuesday morning were Erica and Mike Currie. Erica is associate minister of missions at Pioneer Drive. Mike is the “Good Samaritan with a four-wheel drive truck.” 

The couple set out early to pick up breakfast and sandwich items for Tuesday breakfast and Wednesday lunch for people sheltering at Beltway’s south campus. They also bought blankets when they learned there was a need. As associate missions minister, Erica is used to responding to people in need. And Mike is used to assisting as her Good Samaritan.

“That’s part of what we do,” she said. 

The shopping trip turned out to be more adventurous than they expected, and Mike’s four-wheel drive truck was definitely needed on the icy roads. Before the shopping spree was over, Erica and Mike had purchased Pop Tarts, cereal, milk, bread, and peanut butter and jelly at the United super market on South Fourteenth Street, Market Street on Buffalo Gap Road, and Allsup’s convenience stores. 

They found blankets at Target, which was eerily lit with flashlights due to a power outage, and at the CVS drug store on Buffalo Gap Road. They were surprised to find blankets at CVS and only decided to stop in on a whim. 

“We were pretty desperate,” Erica said. 

The decision to help Beltway Church came during a conference call Monday among John Whitten, senior pastor at Pioneer Drive, and the missions team. Erica said when they found out what Beltway Church was doing, they were glad to help. To Erica, driving around on icy roads to a number of stores to find food and blankets was “no big deal.” She’s a missions minister for a reason.

“It makes me happy to do things like that,” she said.

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