Televangelist Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas has provided shelter to over 100 people evacuated and forcefully displaced from their homes by Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday.
As the end of the week approaches, over 140 people from storm-stricken areas in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana have sought overnight shelter. Many others have received food and much-needed supplies from one of the largest churches in America.
Ida made landfall as one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the mainland United States with winds as high as 150 miles per hour. It moved inland into Mississippi, where it also damaged many homes and roads. The storm resulted in the death of at least two people and knocked out power for over 1 million people in New Orleans and other regions.
“When the magnitude of the storm began to increase on Friday, we wanted to give people a place to go who were fleeing from Louisiana and New Orleans. And we allowed people to know that we were available to take refuge and shelter,” executive director of relief efforts for Lakewood Church, Matt Osteen, Joel Osteen’s nephew, told The Christian Post.
“The Lakewood Church’s shelter is designed to be a short-term shelter. But we plan to house and feed people impacted by Ida for a while. Our church also hopes to continue to partner with neighboring churches to aid in various response efforts.”
Osteen’s nondenominational house of worship includes a 16,800-seat arena. The building was formerly used as a basketball stadium under the name Compaq Center.
Along with the theater, the entire Lakewood property includes hundreds of rooms and living spaces used to shelter thousands of people over the years during various natural disasters.
As the church continues to house those impacted by Ida, the Lakewood Church relief team has served over 500 meals and has not been forced to turn anyone away due to a lack of space.
Additionally, supplies and water have been distributed to over 1,000 Louisianans who stopped by Lakewood Church for aid.
Supplies for the effort are being transported and distributed through World Vision and Lakewood’s network of local churches.
Security guards and police officers have covered the premises of the church grounds to monitor everyone’s safety. Those sheltered are separated in different rooms by couples, families with children, single men and single women.
Lakewood will continue taking in more people if the need arises.
“The Church has a responsibility to step up and help by being the hands and feet of Jesus,” Matt Osteen said. “The Church has a biblical call to step up. We are privileged and blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and some people just want to see a demonstration of love in these tough times.”
Providing shelter to those in need is not the only thing Lakewood Church has done to provide aid during the aftermath of various tropical storms.
The house of worship’s relief staff arranged for volunteers to go into communities to renovate residences after many storms throughout the years.
Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which significantly impacted the Houston region, Lakewood Church volunteers participated in rebuilding and repairing 54 homes, with one home fully renovated every other weekend.
For many of the Hurricane Ida evacuees, Matt Osteen said they are now facing many emotional and physical difficulties.
While there have been many opportunities to evangelize through one-on-one preaching to those devastated by Hurricane Ida, Matt Osteen said the Lakewood staff have been mainly evangelizing through their work and actions.
The church's counseling team has met with every family staying in the shelter each day to provide prayer, spiritual and emotional support.
“Some of them only have the clothes on their back remaining or they are in desperate need for basic necessities such as diapers,” Osteen said. “And many people want to know where to go next. And we want to keep helping. So these people can be successful and get back to their homes quickly. We know a seed is being planted as we help these people through this hard time with our actions in love.”
Osteen encourages those who have not been impacted directly by Ida to pray for those affected.
“We are happy to help those impacted in these circumstances that are completely out of their control. And we are blessed to be able to provide this aid,” he added. “When people are in situations like this, our church aims to point them to the love of Christ. Jesus will always be there. He has a plan for them to give them hope and a future.”