Televangelist Joel Osteen opens megachurch to Houston victims after criticism

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Joel Osteen is the televangelist with a 16,000 seat arena but, until Tuesday, the doors of the Houston Lakewood Church were closed. The millionaire pastor has received heavy criticism for not helping those affected by Harvey.

But, the doors were eventually opened for help -- and things are said to be in "complete chaos" over there.

"It was complete chaos to be honest with you," says Sherrie Handrinos. She's a native of metro Detroit who's working as a volunteer there.  She says a long line of people have been dropping off donations outside, and that there are dozens of volunteers inside and scores of people seeking shelter.

"One man I talked to, he was in tears," she says. "He had two dogs, his wife, they were really young. He was literally crying. They said they were rescued by a boat yesterday."

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There were nearly 200 people taking shelter at Lakewood Church by Tuesday evening, and another 100 are expected. Pastor Joel Osteen was pummeled in the press and social media for not opening the 600,000 square foot mega church sooner.

Ministry Director Jackelyn Viera Iloff says it was impossible to do so.

"People forget how short a period of time this has been," Iloff says. "It started raining over the weekend, and we had to assess what was going on and, as we assessed what was going on, we were also being impacted. Our staff, there were just certain people who couldn't make it to the church because the roads were impassable and their own houses were going under, so we've been taking care of staff."

Bishop Charles Ellis from Greater Grace Temple in Detroit weighed in.

"You have to transition; you have to convert something to something because it's not built to be a shelter. It's built for worship," says Ellis.

He said that churches have to step up in times of crisis.

"People right now are not looking for a hotel they're looking for safety," he says. "They're looking for a shelter; they're looking for a roof. They are looking for a place where they can have privacy.

"When you look at these national disasters, it is all hands on deck."

And back in Houston, all hands are.

Handrinos says now the closed door controversy at Lakewood Church is the last thing on people's minds.

"Nobody was really saying anything about it not opening sooner," she says. "I think people were just happy it opened because all the shelters are full. I've heard that the convention center is completely full."

You can help the victims of Harvey with the Stuff-A-Semi campaign, bringing backpacks full of clothes, diapers, and toiletries and bedding Saturday to the Airtime Trampoline and Game Park, 662 Big Beaver Road in Troy from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. A second date is also available, and at the old Rogell golf course, 18601 Berg in Detroit, across from Greater Grace Temple Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.