As I write, Hurricane Harvey is coming back to shore to thrash the Gulf Coast, once again. After dumping record amounts of rain over the last week, Harvey swirled back out into the Gulf of Mexico to refuel for a Round 2 beating on the Texas and Louisiana coastal cities. Many are predicting that rain totals may reach at least 50 inches by the end of the week.
The Houston Chronicle states that there have been as many as 13 million people affected in over 50 counties, with 13,000 water rescues, and 31 deaths, including a police officer in his cruiser and a family of six in a van. 10,000 people are sheltering at the convention center, while 274,000 are without electricity. 14,000 Texas National Guard troops have been deployed with another 24,000 in the queue for next week. (www.chron.com August 30). These numbers are staggering and we have no idea what the level of need will be after the waters recede, other than the recovery will be massive and will extend for years.
A Lutheran pastor in Indiana posted a reflection earlier this week:
“My daughter came downstairs for breakfast, saw the pictures of Houston on TV, and said – without hesitation – ‘We have work to do.’ It took me a minute to realize she was talking about the ELCA Youth Gathering, and the recovery work we'll contribute to next June.
I am proud of her for not asking, ‘Oh, shoot, how will this affect me and my friends having a good time?’ but instead for instantly seeing her calling in the midst of this tragedy. And, this makes me realize even more how important these experiences are for our youth.”
It is no accident that 30,000 teens - yes, you read that number correctly – will be descending on the greater Houston area in June 2018. Who could have imagined, when the initial planning began for this gathering of Lutheran High School students more than four years ago, that Houston would be ground zero for this devastation?
A friend of mine lives on the banks of the Ohio River. Their home was built to include flood vents, confident that rising waters will sometime threaten their property and home. These vents allow water to flow in and through the house in the hopes of reducing structural damage from flooding.
This can be a powerful image for us as people of faith who often find our identities in the waters of baptism. We speak of dying and rising, washing away sin and rebirth, cleansing and renewal, but we also recognize that God’s love and generosity flows in and through our lives. As we pray for and stand with the people of the Gulf Coast, may we remember that God calls us to love and serve our neighbor.
Here we go!
If you are looking for a way to contribute to the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey or other natural disasters around the world, Lutheran Disaster Response is one of the best organizations around, with a rating of 93 out of 100 on Charity Navigator. You can find donation and volunteer opportunities here: