Sunday, June 5, 2011

Giving Freely to Relieve Suffering

Sometimes it seems there is a natural disaster or catastrophic event almost every week. We read about these incredible events in our newspapers and watch reports on the news. Many times the reports are from other parts of our nation or on the other side of the world. If you are like me you are often moved to respond, but the needs sometimes seem overwhelming. It is difficult to imagine the trauma experienced by those who are directly impacted the events.

Over the past few weeks we have been stunned by the television images and reports of the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. This time the disaster was close to home for many Missourians. Already many have responded with prayers, financial support, water, and a host of other types of gifts. Thousands have already been volunteers for a day or for many days. It is clear the Joplin community will require months and maybe years of support and help to recover from this tragic storm.

Several congregations which are a part of Churchnet have already had volunteers on site in Joplin assisting the recovery process. Our Disaster Relief Chain Saw crews will be working in Joplin beginning June 13th. We are currently making plans through our partnership with Texas Baptists to send more than 100 volunteers in mid-July. Several congregations are also sending teams. If you would like to volunteer to assist our Chain Saw crew with debris removal or participate in the July volunteer projects, contact the Churchnet office at (888) 420-2426.

We are receiving financial gifts designated for the Tornado Relief as well. There are many worthwhile organizations raising funds for this effort. We plan to distribute the funds received through Churchnet through local Baptist churches in the Joplin area. We believe this will provide a wonderful way for Baptists to reach out to those who have lost their homes, possessions, or jobs. If you would like to help you may send your gift designated for “Tornado Relief” to Churchnet, P. O. Box 508, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or you may donate on our website at www.thechurchnet.org.

Relief programs often talk about how people respond quickly and generously in the initial days and weeks following a tragedy like the Joplin tornado. However, it is typical for the initial awareness and compassion to fade quickly as they television news moves on to the latest story. Tragedies like the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan will require years and maybe decades before those impacted begin to recover. The families in Joplin will also need help for years to begin to recover and rebuild their lives.

The faith community should be among the most faithful in responding to help with these great needs. When Jesus sent his disciples out he instructed them, As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give (Matthew 10:7-8 NIV). It is a wonderful image. When we go out in the name of Christ, the kingdom of heaven is present. God goes with us and his power is evident in our ministry. God has been incredibly good to me. I have been blessed beyond my dreams. He has given to me freely, and he calls on me to give freely. This terrible tragedy can become an occasion for generosity and compassion. Thanks for being a people who give.

This article was written for this week's issue of Word&Way.