Yesterday was one of those days when the streets of Twitter, if physical, would have been filled with an angry mob and the centre of their anger – the pastor of Lakewood Church, Houston – Pastor Joel Osteen. Now, if you haven’t heard, Hurricane Harvey is causing serious havoc in Houston, Texas and the floods have been really terrible. Already, four deaths have been recorded due to the disaster and more efforts are being put out to rescue inhabitants of the area and provide relief.
However, the cause of the severe backlash that came at Pastor Joel Osteen and the Lakewood church was that the church remained closed despite the fact that it has a large facility that many believe should be able to provide shelter for many.
On Sunday, the church took to its Facebook page to explain that they would not be holding services due to severe flooding and provided a number of available shelters for people to move to. ‘Dear Houstonians! Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!’ read the message but people were not buying that as pictures showed up on Twitter that appeared to show that the church was not that flooded after all and appeared accessible, though it was not stated at what point the pictures were taken.
Don Iloff, Pastor Joel’s father-in-law and a spokesperson for Lakewood church, in a report by CBN News, made it clear that the church building, which once served as the sports arena for the Compaq Centre is indeed prone to flooding and had pictures to prove that it was truly flooded in some areas. Knowing this, floodgates were built but in pictures that he shared, the water looked like it would soon be coming over the floodgates. He said that rather than endanger the victims of Hurricane Harvey and not provide them with adequate care since the church has no showers or kitchens, it was decided that they would rather focus on distribution of food and resources to shelters such as the George R. Brown Convention Centre which is only five miles from Lakewood and is way bigger and better-equipped to serve as a shelter for people.
He also mentioned that the church had agreed to take people in only when the shelters were filled up and kept in touch with government officials to keep them updated, and not only that, contrary to the picture being painted on the media of the church turning people who needed shelter away, he mentioned that until 2 p.m. on Monday, access to the church was difficult and only three people had been able to get to the church, and they were assisted.
The church has, however, been opened amid reports of the George R. Brown Convention Centre, having reached full capacity. This was made known by Pastor Joel Osteen on his Twitter account.
Lakewood Church has launched a fund to raise money to be used just for hurricane relief. They have also reached out to people to donate resources such as adult and baby diapers, baby formula and baby food, etc, which they would distribute to the Houston area shelters.