Beaumont bound: Rembert church delivers hurricane relief to Houston area


Christian teaching says when God lays something on your heart to do, you do it - no matter the cost - and trust Him with the results.

Members at Grant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 5420 Black River Road, will testify to that.

In late August when Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston and southeast Texas near the Gulf of Mexico for four days, it dropped historic rainfall on the area and was a catastrophic flood disaster. The Category 4 storm dumped almost 50 inches of rain in the Beaumont-Port Arthur metropolitan area, which is about 90 miles east of Houston.

Back in Rembert, Grant Hill member and deacon Gladys Grant said she felt led by God to offer relief assistance to the Houston area after Harvey. She mentioned it at church, and someone knew the pastor of a Catholic church in Beaumont.

South Carolina was fortunate that Harvey adjusted its path and steered clear of the Palmetto State. Some church members were wary to help so immediately because it was still the middle of hurricane season. They wondered if it would be better to wait and see if any storms hit locally, according to Grant.

She said Grant Hill's pastor, the Rev. Clifton Witherspoon, encouraged the church to move forward with the Beaumont relief plan.

"He told us, 'Just do it. God will still bless and provide for us,'" Grant recalled.

So Grant Hill Missionary Baptist pushed forward with a victims' relief effort for Beaumont and got the word out among area churches in Sumter, Kershaw, Lee, Richland and Clarendon counties, according to Grant and fellow member Frank Jenkins.

The church's former sanctuary directly across the street on Black River Road was designated as the drop-off site each Saturday from mid-September through October.

Church leaders had the vision of filling an extra-long trailer full of relief supplies, from bottled water to toiletries to food.

The first few Saturdays didn't go as planned, Jenkins said, who organized the drop-off operation.

"For a while, it looked like we might just need a U-Haul," Jenkins said.

But then, he said, the Lord started working in people's lives.

Grant said she and others were concerned about getting the supplies to Beaumont as quickly as possible.

She said the Beaumont pastor, Father Paul Ofoha, of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, told her: "Whenever it gets to us, we'll still need it, given all the flood damage."

Word spread locally of Grant Hill's relief project, and people contributed without even knowing a single church member. Jenkins said the last couple Saturdays of collections were overwhelming.

In the end, about 12 to 15 churches in the five counties contributed, plus some other individuals, Grant said. When the 53-foot tractor-trailer was filled and bound for Beaumont on Saturday, Nov. 4, it contained 30,000 pounds of relief supplies. The church also collected about $3,000 in monetary donations, she said.

An additional $2,500 was raised to pay for a freight carrier to haul the supplies to Texas.

After the truck arrived at the Beaumont church on Nov. 6, the church distributed the relief items on Saturday.

When contacted this week, Ofoha, the pastor at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, said everyone in Beaumont was grateful by the love offering.

"We express our thankfulness to them for coming to help us in Beaumont," Ofoha said. "I'm personally touched by their thoughtfulness, uplifted by their kindness, and I'm renewed by their goodness that humanity is still there."

Jenkins said it was a highlight of the year for the local church here.

"It was a lot of work," he said, "but I enjoyed it all in service to God."