RESPONDING TO DISASTER
Rather than running away from disaster, Baptists have a tradition of running toward disaster. As 9/11 came this year, and we braced for Hurricane Irma, I was reminded of the Baptist response 16 years earlier in New York City, especially in light of our current efforts in Texas and now Florida.
In case you’re not familiar with our history in this area, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) has been active for the past 50 years offering help in times of local and national crisis. In partnership with the North American Mission Board, state conventions, and local churches, we provide hot meals, clean water, child care, showers, laundry, fallen tree removal, mudouts, structural repairs, rebuilding, chaplains, and more.
Following the 9/11 attacks, crews from more than 30 states worked 20,000 volunteer days, served 1.29 million meals, cleaned debris and ash from 643 apartments, provided childcare for 850 children, provided 11,500 showers for workers and volunteers, washed 782 loads of laundry, and distributed more than 21,000 teddy bears to children.
Since that time, our force of trained disaster relief volunteers has grown from fewer than 25,000 in 2001 to more than 82,000 today. Following the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, SBDR is the third largest disaster relief organization in the United States and a trusted partner for state and national leaders when catastrophes strike.
This should not be surprising because every disaster, whether natural or manmade, is an opportunity for followers of Jesus to provide help and hope to those in dire need. As we address immediate physical needs and assist with long-term recovery, we fulfill Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. More importantly, we’re able to tangibly demonstrate and share the Good News of Jesus at a time when people are desperate for comfort and hope.
However, none of this happens without everyday Christians like you and me who are willing to pray, give, and go. We earnestly pray for those affected by disasters, not just in the U.S. but around the world, and for those who will help them. We sacrificially give to support missions and relief efforts. And as we are able, we selflessly go and serve on the frontlines.
May we each do our part to continue this legacy of love and compassion as we do good for those in need and, in so doing, give glory to our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
For ways to support those affected by the recent natural disasters, please visit http://fbctlh.org/hurricane-harvey/.