Grateful for the Church’s Witness by Carla Sunberg
Carla Sunberg (right) is pictured with Pastor Maxine Williams (left) and Rev. Sam Flores, assistant district superintendent for the South Texas District.
everal days after Hurricane Harvey blew through south Texas, USA, I had the privilege to travel to the area and see the response of the local churches. In the days that followed, we saw other areas suffer at the hand of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as well as major earthquakes in Mexico. I am grateful for the work of the Church of the Nazarene in Texas and beyond. When I arrived in south Texas, the church was already mobilized and responding. I observed teams from Indiana and west Texas doing an outstanding job of caring for others by mucking out damaged homes. I had the privilege of working at the home of Rev. Maxine Williams, pastor of Grace Church of the Nazarene in Port Arthur, Texas. Her home was badly damaged by four feet of floodwater, and she lost nearly everything she owned. She will have to live elsewhere until her home can be rebuilt. While she, herself, was struggling, she made sure the church building was open to serve as a shelter for dozens of others who had been displaced by the floods. At Orange Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Ray McDowell’s family lost most of their belongings in the rising floodwaters. He is currently living in an RV on the property of the church, whose building was also flooded by four feet of water. The church family has suffered with nearly 50 families displaced by the storm. Amazingly, when I joined the Orange church congregation for their worship service that Sunday morning, they were praising God together. Pews, chairs, insulation, and church supplies were in piles around the church building and strewn across the lawn. I found a congregation of nearly 200, seated 4 | www.ncm.org
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will
in lawn chairs, gathered under the trees, worshipping the Lord, and supporting one another as a community of faith. That same day I was able to visit North Point Church of the Nazarene in Beaumont, Texas, where they were celebrating their fifth anniversary. This relatively new congregation had many individuals who had experienced devastation from the storms, yet here they were, praising God and baptizing nine individuals. That day I wept. I was overwhelmed by what I saw and experienced. It left me grateful for the witness of these local churches. This magazine is filled with more stories of God’s faithfulness and the faithful witness of God’s people in the wake of disasters. Over the course of just weeks, communities in countries from Puerto Rico to Mexico, and Sierra Leone to Bangladesh and India have been utterly devastated by natural disasters. Yet the Church of the Nazarene is present in these places, offering help and care in the name of Christ. I am grateful for the way our global family of faith comes together during times of adversity. As attention is drawn away from these disasters to focus on the next news stories, may we remember that the families and individuals left behind are not able to move on as quickly. May we continue to be the Body of Christ one to another, and may we continue to provide witness to the love of our Lord. Rev. Carla Sunberg, PhD, serves as a general superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene. She loves to teach and train leaders for the future of the church and has served as president of Nazarene Theological Seminary and as adjunct faculty for a number of institutions. Her heartfelt passion is a life of holiness and service for the Lord. She and her husband, Chuck, are proud parents of two adult daughters, Christa, who along with her husband, Iain Maciver, lives in England; and Cara, who with her husband, Justin Shonamon, and two daughters lives in Kansas.
not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” — Psalm 46:1-3