No one can predict crisis. The eye of the ‘storm’ is fierce and has no preference to where it may strike. Scripture says, it ‘rains on the righteous and the unrighteous.’
Early in the morning on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. This week August 29, 2015 we remember — $150 billion dollars in damage and 1,836 people who lost their lives.
According to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives there was “record-setting giving and countless acts of compassion following Hurricanes Katrina. This reflects America’s tradition of generosity and sense of responsibility to care for our neighbors in need. The American people gave more than $3.5 billion to aid citizens impacted by the Hurricanes through individual gifts and corporate and philanthropic donations.
In the face of disaster, those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus should be on the front- line of helping people who are looking for assistance and support for healing.
In a poll conducted by the American Red Cross showed that in the face of crisis:
- 59 percent said they were likely or most likely to turn to a religious leader or spiritual guide for help.
- 43-60 percent of people who have emotional problems turn first to religious leaders for help.
- 94 percent of Americans believe in God.
- People really do turn to religious leaders for support.
What are the questions we hear from people affected by crisis and catastrophe?
- Where is God when these disasters happen?
- Why does God allow so many innocent people to die?
- Is God purposely punishing places that are hit
What is God’s response?
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
…and then…on that final and glorious day
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Ten years ago, I flew to Houston and traveled to Baton Rouge to simply serve. I engaged. I listened to the heart of God. I obeyed. I went! I had no idea what role I would play or what title I would have.
The night of arrival, a little old lady and a Red Cross director said to me, “we believe God sent you here and you are here to help lead us.”
The Lord would allow me to serve eight mega-shelters as lead supervisor for the Red Cross. Each of those shelters had 3,000 to 8,000 people in them. Our amazing team of volunteers would service more than 100 church-based shelters. We would shelter, feed, care for, and assist people in finding their families. The scope of work was overwhelming. The money needed to care for people’s physical needs was staggering.
I called the head of Katrina’s operation with the Red Cross and asked him if I had the authority to do all that I was doing. I asked him to supply me with eight shelter managers. He responded, “You do whatever you need to do to get it done.” And then he laughed. He said, “Dan, everyone I have left signed up for the Red Cross yesterday. Do what you need to do to get it done.”
I called Dave Guiles (executive director of Encompass World Partners) who had previously called me to encourage and pray for me in my role.
He had said, “If you need anything call.”
I called! I asked, “You have a program called Rapid Deployment….do you mean it?” I told him what I needed and the next day I had eight proven, tested, and effective leaders that gave three weeks of non-stop service. I gave them a crash course in the Red Cross and they ran each of our shelters.
What? Really? I went not knowing if I would be scrubbing toilets or that I would become the top leader of Red Cross operations in 10 counties, directly reporting to the head of the entire operation, spending millions and millions of dollars.
I would have the opportunity to engage the church. The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC) was handed the opportunity to lead by serving people in crisis. Nine significant roles in the Katrina operation were filled by Grace Brethren servant leaders.
I thank God for a family of believers who demonstrate the love of God to a people in crisis. It has been a privilege for me to serve the FGBC in the past decade in the face of crisis. I personally want to thank each person who served and who gave to help the people who whose lives were devastated by Katrina. Your investment was physical and spiritual. When you chose to engage you shared the heart of your Father. You looked a lot like Jesus.
Today, our FGBC Churches have the chance to prepare and to engage in the efforts to assist people in crisis. I encourage you to join forces with Barb Wooler in the Not Alone Crisis Responder network. Click here to learn more about the Not Alone Crisis Responder network and how to connect with this ministry.
We don’t know when the next Katrina will hit, but the face of disaster is imminent.
This week. We remember Katrina. Pray for the families who lost loved ones. Thank God for the first responders who put their lives on the line to provide physical and spiritual care.
Your investment in crisis and catastrophe makes an eternal difference. — by Dan O’Deens
Editor’s Note: Dan’ O’Deens, founder and executive director of CPR-3 and former pastor of Gateway Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Parkesburg, Pa., was among the first responders to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.