In June of 2002 following the events of September 11, my family and I moved to Staten Island to work with individuals that were affected by that tragedy in New York City. I was in charge of a ministry called “The Hope Center.” The ministry only functioned for about a year, and we had to return to Cincinnati.
The purpose and vision of The Hope Center was to help individuals deal with emotional and psychological crisis, such as the East Coasters are currently experiencing with the recent storm, Sandy. My heart breaks as I read the news, watch television, and listen to the radio. The entire region is experiencing overwhelming grief, isolation, and desperation, and many do not have even the most basic necessities.
It is time for local churches, the universal denominations, and the Para-church ministries to stand up and tell the government to move out of the way and let us do what God has called us to do. Food, clothing, and shelter should be available to anyone and everyone in the storm torn region.
Someone reported that the bridges are closed. Why? If they are unsafe, take the supplies in by foot, in boats, in helicopters or any other number of imaginative ways that God provides This is America, we were built on the “can do” philosophy. It is time for us to do what most of us already know how to do very well.
I applaud the local governments for what they have done, but I believe that their attitude of, “we know how to run this better than anyone else,” is a false sense of pride and a failure to those who need help now.
But, unfortunately, I believe that the church has become complacent and willing to let the government do it. I recently asked a pastor friend of mine what the emergency plan for his church was if a disaster like 'Sandy' hit his town. He looked at me funny and said, “That’s what the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the government are for.”
As we watch and hear the events unfolding, we realize it is about the people and families coming together and not about waiting for the government to do it all. The church provides their communities with prayer, encouraging words, multiple types of support, sharing of resources, and a compassionate God that touches every heart.
Each church must develop its own plan for an unforeseen disaster. Hopefully, they reach out to their fellow church organizations and work together, along with the government, to insure that all who in their care receive what they need with a minimum of suffering.
Each church should be asking itself these questions and coming up with the answers:
1. What is our church's plan to meet the needs of our community when we face disaster?
2. How do we deliver spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical support along with the basic needs to support life, food, clothing, and shelter?
3. How do we coordinate with the fellow churches in our community to insure no one is left out?