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No lights, but plenty of blessings as Texas church deals with Rita

JASPER, Texas — With the electricity still out in this hurricane-ravaged town, a sign posted outside the Highway 96 South Church of Christ gave the details of a recent Sunday service:

Where: Church house lawn

What to bring: Lawn chairs, bug spray

Dress: casual

In case of bad weather, service will be held inside the church building. You will need to bring a flashlight.

On a sun-drenched October morning, the circumstances seemed less than ideal for the congregation’s first service in the wake of Hurricane Rita.
Yet, even as they fanned themselves with paper plates donated to the relief effort, the 100 or so church members seated in folding chairs said they were excited to be back.

“You miss it,” Patty Hatton said of the fellowship and communion with her church family.

Hatton, who lives with her husband, Caroll, and their teenage daughters, Shelby and Brittany, south of Jasper, waited out the storm at home.

“You could hear the wind,” she said. “You could hear the vinyl (siding) ripping off. But I didn’t realize the tree damage until the next morning. … I would have been concerned if I had known what was really going on.”

For days after the storm, her family made do without electricity or running water. “You take your bath in the creek and wash your clothes in the pond,” she said. “You know, that’s all you can do.”

The sound of hammers patching a nearby house’s roof and heavy machinery lifting downed power lines competed with the congregation’s singing of “A Wonderful Savior” and “When ISurvey the Wondrous Cross.”

An emergency vehicle’s siren interrupted the quiet stillness of the Lord’s Supper.

Still, Eileen Brack, whose roof caved under the weight of a fallen pecan tree, said the service was just what she needed: “It was perfect. It was very touching. It was things I needed to hear, because I had been getting down.”

Minister Bobby L. South, trying to talk above the wind and construction noise, spoke on surviving life’s storms, with his text starting in Mark 4:35.

South reflected on how the church had come to the rescue of Hurricane Katrina evacuees — even putting a shower in its service center. And now, he said, members were working hard to make sure Jasper’s poorest and most destitute residents were fed, clothed and blessed spiritually.

The minister praised God for the outpouring of support from church members across the nation, many of whom called to ask what the congregation needed or tell him they were sending helpers.

“We’ve got brethren that we don’t even know coming to Jasper,” he said. “Listen, the body of Christ is alive and well, and that’s the church I read about in the New Testament.”

Filed under: National

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