Last week, I wrote about the devastation of Hurricane Harvey as it took aim at the Gulf Coast, not once, but twice. Now, as I write, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Haiti, following a demolishing blow to islands in the Caribbean. Irma is projected to lash Florida, this weekend, and then possibly crawl up the coast with more relentless destruction. Residents on islands and the mainland are scurrying for higher ground – or at least property that is at a safer distance from the shore – unsure of what this category 5 storm is going to do. They are bracing for the worst.
On the other coast, massive wildfires are burning from California to Montana, now consuming over 1.5 million acres of precious forestland. 800,000 immigrants, who came here as undocumented children, are trying to figure out what the recently rescinded “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) protections means for their future.
Across the globe, massive floods have impacted 16 million in South Asia, not to mention escalating wars, food insecurity, and the plethora of other natural and man-made disasters that bring daily despair.
So often, we are overwhelmed by the need. We want to help. We want to give. We want to share. We want to make a difference, but we feel ill-equipped for the struggle and destruction around us.
Romans reminds us that we can make a difference. Filled with the power of the living God, we step forward trusting that the Holy Spirit will empower and guide us for loving and serving our neighbor. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:9-13).
You may have heard of Jim McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack to many in the Houston area. He wanted to make a difference for those suffering in his community, so he did the only thing that made sense to him. As the owner of a large furniture store, he opened his doors to anyone in need. Warm beds, hot meals, and compassionate conversations brought hope to hurting people in his corner of the world. Watch his story here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/houston-businessman-jim-mcingvale-opens-furniture-stores-to-evacuees/.
This weekend, God calls us to serve, too. After refueling and reconnecting in worship, we’ll head out into our communities to serve. We’ll be showering the West Chester Police Department and West Chester Fire Stations with food, posters, cards, and affection, helping with outdoors projects at Union Elementary, and setting up for the Family Promise homeless shelter and preparing a delicious lunch for the entire crew. Pick a project and sign-up if you want or just show up ready to serve on Sunday. We are collecting restaurant gift cards, snacks, and drinks to fill the baskets for the police and fire departments of West Chester.
There is much destruction and sorrow in the world, but there is also one Jesus Christ who brings hope to the hopeless, light into the dark, and life from death.
Called to serve!
If you are looking for a way to contribute to the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or other natural disasters around the world, Lutheran Disaster Response is one of the best organizations around. “Lutheran Disaster Response brings God’s hope, healing and renewal to people whose lives have been disrupted by disasters in the United States and around the world. When the dust settles and the headlines change, we stay to provide ongoing assistance to those in need.” You can find donation and volunteer opportunities here:
Thrivent will match up to $3 million in personal donations made online through Thrivent.com to specific disaster relief organizations (including Lutheran Disaster Response) responding to Hurricane Harvey.