Joel Osteen Opens Megachurch Doors to Flood Victims After Backlash: 'We Are Receiving Anyone Who Needs Shelter'
Joel Osteen has responded to the backlash, announcing that the megachurch doors will be open once local shelters are full
Texas pastor Joel Osteen is opening the doors of his massive Lakewood Church to flood victims after receiving criticism for not helping those in need in the wake of the deadly Hurricane Harvey.
“Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians,” Osteen said in a tweet. “Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.”
“God gives us grace for every challenge. Stay strong and know that God has you in the palm of His hand!” he continued.
Lakewood Church’s Twitter account said that supplies were being sent to the location, and they were in search of volunteers to help in their efforts.
The tweets come days after Osteen faced heated criticism for failing to open the church’s doors to Houston evacuees who were displaced by the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. On Saturday, church officials issued a Facebook statement announcing that the Houston church — which can hold more than 16,000 — was “inaccessible due to severe flooding.” The post raised eyebrows, especially after photos surfaced showing the outside of the church unaffected by the rising flood waters.
However, Osteen insisted in a statement to ABC News that he was not closing the doors to those in need, but was waiting until “shelters reach capacity” to welcome evacuees.
“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” he added. “Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens to rebuild our lives.”
The massive storm touched down as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday, dumping several inches of rain on the Texas Coastal Bend. The storm left homes flooded, many without power and several buildings destroyed. At least 10 people have died as a result of the storm and several others have been injured, The New York Times reports.
Countless Houston residents were trapped in flooding homes and the Coast Guard has rescued dozens, according to the Times. Thousands of people have been rescued in the wake of the storm, but strained resources have prompted locals to take to the waters in boats and makeshift floating devices to save those stranded.
Now, several Texas towns are bracing for the second impact of the already-catastrophic storm, according to ABC. Evacuations are even underway for Louisiana residents as the storm closes in on the state, Good Morning America reports.
However, some came to the pastor’s defense, sharing Twitter photos that appeared to show the church’s flooded basement.
“Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation,” one person tweeted. “This is the situation of our church.”
RELATED VIDEO: Hurricane Harvey: Before and After Footage Shows Damage to Houston
Meanwhile, John Gray, an associate pastor with the church, condemned the criticism in an emotional Instagram post, noting that while he does not make such decisions, he and his wife will do all they can to help those affected by the storm.