Houston Pastor Joel Osteen said today that his Lakewood Church has been helping flood victims from the very beginning of Harvey as he pushed back against criticism that the church did not initially welcome evacuees.
Osteen is defending himself and his 16,000 capacity Lakewood Church following a firestorm of controversy.
He says accusations that the church didn't want to take in flood victims are false.
"The notion that we were going to turn people away was just not true," Osteen said on The 700 Club Wednesday. "The church has always been opened. We received evacuees early on."
A post on the church's Facebook page Sunday drew criticism on social media after photos appeared to suggest that the church had not been damaged by flooding from Harvey.
Osteen explained the reason for the delay.
"The first couple of days the church was inaccessible or not safe. It looks like it's on this big hill, but right behind me this building has flooded before," he told CBN. "So we had to be very cautious there but once we got it up and running, the other shelter filled up and now we're receiving people and making a difference in our community."
By early Tuesday, the church had become a bustling triage center with hundreds of volunteers and donated items piling up.
Osteen tweeted a number of times Tuesday, informing people the massive structure, formerly the Compaq Center where the Houston Rockets played their professional basketball games, is now stocked with air mattresses and other supplies to rescue Houstonians who've been displaced by rising flood waters.
Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 29, 2017
Osteen said Lakewood's goal is to help survivors of Harvey for the long haul.
"In a week or two people that are sheltered will be moved on. But in the next five years we'll have teams working in the community," he said.
He added, "We're still helping people from Katrina and so that's what it's all about. And I love too that I get to talk a lot, but this is getting to show the community what Lakewood is all about. And today thousands of volunteers will come out and bring all these supplies and we'll take 'em to the different shelters here in town."
Pastor Osteen said these difficult times are bringing out the best in people.
"They put down all the divisiveness that's going on in the society and said hey, let's go help somebody," he said.