United Methodist churches scrambled to open as warming centers and overnight shelters after historic winter storms earlier this week left nearly 3 million homes in Texas without electricity in subfreezing temperatures.
As of Feb. 18, more than a half million Texas homes still had no power, and many had either low water pressure or no water due to struggling local water systems. Broken pipes and flooding were making some residences uninhabitable.
“We’ve been saying for the last year, during the pandemic, that the church is not the building, yet the building is what people need in terms of having shelter,” said the Rev. Clayton Oliphint, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas.
His church and others — across Texas as well as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri — offered people a place to warm up, charge devices and get something to eat.
The Family Life Center at First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been hopping this week.
“It was supposed to be an overnight shelter, but conditions have gotten so bad we’re open 24/7,” said the Rev. Bill Sardin, associate pastor.
The church has focused on helping the homeless, averaging about 50 such people
“The police are driving around, and if they see anybody in the cold, they are bringing them to our shelter,” Sardin said.