The Osteen family is taking criticism on social media following Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that’s ravaged the Houston, Texas area.
Joel Osteen, the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, tweeted out messages of prayer and strength to residents of the city during a challenge time. Thousands of people have been displaced as a result of catastrophic flooding, and over 3,000 have had to be rescued by police.
However, Twitter users have responded to the messages, with many asking why he hasn’t opened up the doors to his church to aid those who have been displaced by the storm.
Osteen is married to Victoria Osteen, who serves as the co-pastor of Lakewood Church, is a successful author and was once the subject of an assault lawsuit. The couple have been married for 30 years and have two children together. Victoria also commented on Harvey via Twitter, expressing her sadness for the crisis in the Houston area.
The couple also set up a relief fund through Lakewood and included a letter regarding Harvey with it.
Dear Lakewood Church family,
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We want to let you know that our hearts are with each of you and your families during this difficult time. We are praying for you and we are praying for our city, and for all of those affected by the devastating flooding and rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. We love you and we love this city. And we want to help.
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.
We know the need is great. That much is clear. We do not yet know all the ways we can help. However if you would like to register to volunteer with us, please do so by clicking the link below. Or, if you would like to donate to our relief efforts, please do so here in this page. We are working just as fast as we can on this and will update you with more information as it becomes available.
In the meantime, know that our prayers for strength and comfort for each of you will continue, as well as our prayers for God’s help as we navigate the upcoming days and months together.
We love you. And we are praying. Together, we will make it through this difficult time.
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Here’s what you need to know about Victoria:
1. Victoria & Joel Got Married in 1987
Joel and Victoria tied the knot on April 4, 1987, meaning the couple have now been married for over three decades. They met when Victoria was working at her mother’s jewelry business: Joel had come in to buy a battery for his watch.
In a September 2016 posting to her blog, Victoria, 56, spoke about the secret to her and Joel’s marriage.
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“Joel and I have a wonderful relationship,” she wrote. “He is such a great husband, and he tells me that I am a great wife. As good as Joel is, our marriage wasn’t built on Joel being perfect. It wasn’t built on me being perfect. It wasn’t built on us agreeing on everything.”
Victoria wrote that each morning she and Joel wake up with their hearts prepped to love each other no matter what happens through the day.
“In order to have a great marriage, we had to make some decisions early on,” she wrote. “We had to learn to adapt to one another. We had to be willing to change. Most importantly, we had to make the choice daily to build our home on unconditional love.”
Victoria and Joel have two children together: Jonathan and Alexandra. Both of them have been very active within Lakewood, often singing on stage during services.
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2. She Was Born in Alabama & Later Moved to Houston
Victoria’s maiden name is Iloff, and she was born in Huntsville, Alabama. Her father, Donald Iloff, was a mathematician who worked for General Electric and was once a member of the company’s Saturn rocket project team. Her mother, Georgine Iloff, was active in the Christian faith and was is the owner of Iloff Jewelers. Growing up in Alabama, the family lived close to Marshall Space Flight Center, where her father worked.
When she was 2-years old in 1963, Victoria moved with her family to Houston when her father got a job at NASA. There, the family lived close to the Johnson Space Center. Growing up in Texas, Victoria and her family were members of the Church of Christ, which is a conservative church. Her mother taught Sunday school at the church and her father was a deacon.
Victoria was accepted and attended the University of Houston and majored in psychology, though she didn’t graduate. While going to school, she worked at her mother’s jewelry business.
3. She Was Accused of Assault Prior to a 2005 Flight
In 2005, Victoria was accused of assaulting a flight attendant prior to a flight.
The alleged incident took place December 19, 2005 on a Continental Airlines flight. The flight attendant, Sharon Brown, said Victoria yelled at her, threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her while trying to rush the cockpit when a drink that spilled onto the armrest of her first-class seat on the plane wasn’t cleaned up. The Osteen family was removed from the flight from Houston to Colorado, and the FAA fined Victoria $3,000 for “interfering with a crew member.”
Brown followed through with a civil lawsuit, and sought an apology from Victoria in addition to $405,000 in damages.
However, passengers on board testified in court and said they never saw anything that showed Victoria had assaulted crew members.
“There wasn’t anything that occurred that she could be suing over,” Laura Knoppe, who was sitting near the incident, said in court, according to USA Today.
The pilot of the flight, William Burnett, also testified in court and said he didn’t notice anybody fighting the flight attendants. The jury sided with Victoria, and the lawsuit was subsequently dismissed August 13, 2008.
4. She Founded Lakewood’s Women’s Ministry
Joel was encouraged to be a preacher by his father, but worked behind the scenes until 1999 when he finally became a preacher. Six days into his preaching career, his father died of a heart attack. His unexpected death spurred his spirituality with God and he started preaching more frequently. Eventually, he became the senior pastor at the church, and it grew from 5,000 to 43,000 members.
To ensure that its thousands of members could fit, the church purchased the former home of the Houston Rockets, the Compaq Center, in 2003 for $7.5 million. A renovation of the building cost a reported $105 million.
With the new church, Victoria quickly found an important role at the church, forming the Lakewood Church Women’s Ministry in 2003. She still serves as a co-pastor for the program, and her sermons can be viewed weekly during a one-hour broadcast online.
5. She’s an Author & Has Appeared on a Radio Show
In addition to her role at Lakewood as a preacher, she’s also appeared on Houston radio with feature segments and is a supporter of two nonprofit organizations: Feed the Children and The Bridge, a shelter for female victims of domestic abuse.
In 2008, Victoria published a book titled >Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy, and Whole. It proved to be a major success, and it debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times‘ Bestsellers list.
One year later in 2009, Victoria capitalized on the success and released a children’s book. Her deal with the publisher, Simon & Schuster, included 13 books for children.