We have all watched with broken hearts the pictures and videos that have rolled in from the devastation in Houston left by Hurricane Harvey. No one can comprehend the destruction from this much water. The people of Houston could never have expected this or adequately prepared for it. I was raised in Texas and have some really close friends in Houston, so the scenes coming out of this area hit home in a very real way. While our hearts and prayers go out to all those impacted, there is that voice inside us that says, “what can I do?”
We all want to help. If you are like me, your first instinct is to jump in the car and just go. But, that is not always the best way to make a lasting difference. For Christ-followers, our response in times of crisis like this should be to:
- Care universally – All people matter to God. Regardless of whether you or someone you know is personally impacted in a crisis, as a Christ-follower we should all care and do what we can to help anyone and everyone. As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”
- Help appropriately – Seeing the pictures of Houston makes us all want to go and help. But, we must help appropriately. Help where you can, but don’t put yourself or others in danger. Work through local churches and non-profits who are directly impacting the people most affected. Remember, this is long-term. When Katrina hit, we were taking mission teams from church up to two years later. Yes, there is a need for an immediate response, but there is also a need for a sustained response.
- Respond specifically – Look for specific needs and meet them. Each situation is different, but there are some specific needs common to all crisis – Towels, blankets, diapers, socks, underwear, food, water, etc. Find local organizations to send specific items to for distribution to those most in need.
- Give responsibly – Money matters. But, where you give is important as well. From Katrina and other disasters, we’ve learned the importance of giving money to reputable organizations that are making the biggest difference. Do your homework before you give and look for organizations that are meeting both physical and spiritual needs.
- Pray intentionally – There is power in prayer. In fact, it’s is the first and most impactful thing you can do in the wake of disaster. Pray for people you know who are impacted. Pray for the water to recede. Pray for emergency response teams. Pray for churches and non-profits serving in the area. Above all, pray for God to draw people to Himself in this situation. Pray for hope to come and people to rebuild their lives.
As a church, we are following this approach. We are donating financially to two non-profits – Samaritan’s Purse
and Texas Baptist Disaster Relief
as well as to two churches – Bayou City Fellowship
and Second Baptist Houston
. All of these are meeting physical and spiritual needs on the ground. In addition, we are collecting diapers, wipes and other essentials for families in Houston. Along with this, we will be sending a team of volunteers
to go serve alongside these relief organizations. Our first team leaves in a week, and then we will more teams to follow in the years to come. And, over all this, we are praying – asking our God to protect and redeem lives. Praying for individuals, families, churches and non-profits. We can’t do everything, but we can all do something.
I remember the “1,000 year” flood of Nashville in May of 2010. While it is not on the same scale in regards to the damage of Harvey, it was still devastating. Many people’s homes were flooded, there were daring rescue missions and a huge need for the church to be the church. Our building became a distribution center for Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Everyone in our church was out serving in some way – helping stranded people to cleaning up homes. In that time, we all learned some valuable life-lessons then that apply to all of us where we live today:
- Everything stops in a time of crisis. In our fast paced world, tragedies like this bring us back to reality. Everything should stop in a crisis. Whatever we are doing, we need to focus on what we can do for others. Pray, give & go – times like this take all of us. Whether it is on a national scale or even a friend who is mourning the passing of family member, everything should stop in a time of crisis.
- All people matter. Storms make no distinctions between socioeconomic status, race, gender or any other divisions which we as men create. All people need help in desperate times, and all people matter to God. This is so important for us to remember and to live with every day.
- Stuff is valuable, but it is only temporary. All of our stuff can be gone in an instant. We brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out. People are more important than possessions, yet we spend so much money and time on stuff. It says of the Early Church in Acts 2, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Never let stuff become more important than people. Invest your life in what matters.
- These are the times when the church is truly the church. These are the times when we put our faith into practice and love radically. The Church is the hands and feet of Christ. I am so thankful for how the Church responded in Nashville and for how the Church is responding in Houston. We need each other, and we are better together.
Our God is with us through the good times and through the storms. Yet, it is in the storms that we truly feel the closeness with God. It is in the hard times that people are looking for help and for hope. Let’s respond to Houston, and let’s allow this to be a wake-up call for all of us in how we live. After Houston, there will be another time of crisis. We live in a fallen world and all creation groans for redemption. One day there will be no more tragedies, but until that day comes we must continue to meet social needs and spiritual needs. In times of crisis, people want not only physical help but spiritual answers. Let’s respond to Houston every day.