While an army of social media users criticized Joel Osteen’s mega church in Houston, Texas, for not housing people affected by the Hurricane Harvey – churchgoers argued that the public didn’t have the whole story. In fact, they claim, the church was severely damaged by the storm as well.
The church issued a statement Sunday, explaining that their massive building was, “inaccessible due to severe flooding” and provided important contact information to rescue services, however this triggered a massive – if uninformed – social media backlash against Joel Osteen’s church.
Lynne Gabriel-Caine, a member of the church shared pictures through her social media account, showing how badly the church had been affected by the hurricane. Gabriel-Caine tweeted, “Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation. This is the situation of our church.”
After being burned by social media, Osteen took to the airwaves on Monday in an interview with ABC. In it he declared that the Lakewood Church is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.” He also vowed that, “We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need… Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”
Furthermore, Don Iloff, a spokesman for Lakewood Church joined FaithWire for an interview on Monday. In his interview he expressed that the church is more than willing to accommodate people should need be. He went on to highlight that the church doesn’t have showers or a kitchen and would be better suited as “an emergency shelter than anything else.”
Iloff also mentioned that the church was in talks with officials to offer their help. “We were on the phone with the city,” he said. “They said the shelters are fine at the moment. We basically said we can put [a few hundred] people on the second level [and the] city said, ‘We’ll get back with you.’ We are prepared to house those people.”
The Lakewood Church’s website also shared a statement that highlighted their good intentions. The statement read: “Over the last couple of days, as the enormity of this storm was being realized, we have been working to organize relief efforts for the Houston area with our friend Franklin Graham and the disaster relief organization that he oversees, Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse has been, since it’s inception, organized to respond to situations just like Hurricane Harvey, and we are grateful to be able to partner with them to provide assistance to the Houston area.”
Additionally, on Sunday, Osteen tweeted, “Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.”