If you are like me, you have probably been swept away by the overwhelming images of Hurricane Harvey on social media and the news. Images from reporters and raw footage from home videos show the day-by-day devastation of the flooding covering southeast Texas and into Louisiana. Images continue to pour in of daring rescues, highways under water, and homes completely flooded. And with these images also come the images of the historic outpouring of love by the Lonestar cities and rest of the United States. Scenes of solidary and care among neighbors, police, and volunteers capture this human response . . . and our hearts.
But as the waters slowly begin to recede, and what’s left emerges, feelings of shock and survival remain as reality sets in for Houstonians and surrounding residents. There has already been so much loss—family members, beloved pets, livestock, childhood homes, family businesses, and much more. They have not just lost stuff; they have lost memories, pieces of their lives, and dreams. Any sense of normalcy has been replaced by the uncertainty of the future. Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind knows that when you are in the midst of hard times, it is hard to wade through the waters and feel hope.
So how can we as the Church help the hurting people of Hurricane Harvey when #HurricaneHarvey isn’t trending anymore? With any natural tragedy or loss, support naturally tends to decrease as time goes on. While others’ lives go back to normal, hurricane survivors are left to carry on. As disaster relief continues, the cleanup, rebuilding, and healing will take time. It is reported that relief efforts may last months, if not several years, for the affected cities, and its residents will never be the same. So, for followers of Jesus Christ, we must keep praying, keep posting, and keep participating.
Here are a few ways we can support the hurting people of Hurricane Harvey and shine the hope of God’s love and faithfulness in the middle of the storm.
Do not underestimate the power of prayer during national tragedies. Place visual reminders on your refrigerator or desk to remind you and your family to pray when the news channels are no longer covering the disaster and cleanup reliefs.
1. Pray for wisdom for Governor Greg Abbott and city officials.
2. Pray for rest, strength, and endurance for the National Guard, emergency response teams, and volunteer rescue crews.
3. Pray for healing and provision for Houstonians who have lost so much.
4. As physical rescues are taking place, pray that hearts would be softened and open to the gospel. Pray that many would be rescued from “darkness” to “light” through faith in Jesus Christ.
Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey can lead people to ask hard questions—eternal questions. The world is watching and waiting for Christians to respond. Let us not shy away from the opportunity; at the same time, let’s make sure our message is one of compassion and hope! (1 Peter 3:15). Whether you have family members in Houston, are a native Texan, or live states away, God can use you to spread His mercy and love to hurting souls. God can use what He’s given you to bless others, and it may just be what gets them through another day of cleanup, another day of rebuilding, and another day closer to healing.
1. If you personally know someone who has been affected by the hurricane, reach out. Regardless of what you are met with—anger, sadness, pushback, silence—keep reaching out. “I am here, I care, and you are not alone” are life-giving words to someone who is grieving. The secret is to keep communicating.
2. As you pray, keep posting reminders of God’s concern for the hurting. Scripture is a good place to start (Psalm 18:16-17).
We have seen historic mobilization efforts already, but the need for volunteers continues. With the help of technology, giving and going are easier than ever before.
1. SENDRELIEF is a service of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). One hundred percent of dollar donations go directly to Southern Baptist relief efforts. Follow the link for more information: https://www.namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief.
2. Make yourself available. Volunteer with cleanup, feeding, shower/laundry services, chaplaincy, and childcare by volunteering with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams. Training schedules and applications can be found at http://sbtexas.com/.
Our hope is that Houston and Hurricane Harvey survivors would begin to rebuild and heal. In the midst of this tragedy, the church has an opportunity to show up in a powerful way and remind them, and those watching, that God cares and has not forgotten about them (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 121).
Melissa Meredith is the Director of the Horner Homemaking House at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.