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“When the waters roll over like the sea...” Responding to the Flooding in the Texas Gulf Region and in South Asia

Summary: Devastating floods from hurricane Harvey have overwhelmed Houston; the heaviest monsoon rainfall in more than 15 years in parts of south Asia has killed more than 1200 people and displaced as many as 30 million others. These two tragedies call us to respond, in Jesus’ name. But what forms should that response take?

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Flooding in Houston and South Asia

It’s hurricane season. A devastating, history-making storm is slowly making its way up and around the Gulf of Mexico. So many lives disrupted, property damaged . . . and the waters haven’t yet crested. Thirty-one reported deaths so far. Around the world in South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh), there’s another seasonal but devastating water event: monsoon rains are affecting 16 million people. Over 1200 have died in flooding in northern India/southern Nepal. Almost 2,000 relief camps have been established, the U.N. says. Millions of people have been displaced or stranded by the storms, which have stretched for weeks.

You have to be pretty calloused to not want to help in some way. We see pictures of real suffering. We hear pleas for assistance. The tricky part is, what kind of help really helps? After all, most of us are observing and praying for those affected by these cataclysmic floods from afar. What can we do to help?

Recovering from a disaster is a marathon and not a sprint. Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief and Development, suggests that there are three phases to disaster relief: Rescue, Relief, and Recovery. Experts say time and time again, in the face of disaster, money, not donated items, is most helpful. People often donate items that end up being more of a burden than a help.

 

Our Response as a Church

We want to join in relief efforts to help those suffering in these widespread humanitarian disasters. We'll take a special offering this Sunday, September 3, to respond in love and care to those affected by damaging rains in our country and in Nepal and India.

This offering will directly support four Christian ministries who have a history of effective work in both disaster relief and development, and are actively involved in current relief efforts.  These organizations are careful stewards of finances, and work closely with local churches in meeting the needs of their communities:

MAP International provides medicine and medical supplies around the world. In response to Hurricane Harvey, MAP International is responding with thousands of personal hygiene kits, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap for people in shelters.All of these items will be critical in ensuring that disease doesn't spread following this disaster.

Somebody Cares America Inc. is a Houston-based ministry network founded in 1981. They have a prayerful, local church-based response to disaster. In the current crisis, they’ve provided hot meals to first responders and those in shelters, offered crisis and trauma chaplaincy, distributed shelter and hygiene supplies, clothing, and baby supplies.

Good News for India is led by Grace Chapel partners George and Leela Chavanikamannil. Through their network of local pastors and churches, they can bring relief to many who have lost their homes because of the excessive monsoon rains. A group of radical Hindus are preventing aid groups from reaching areas where there are several churches.  

World Relief, a partner with Grace Chapel, is working with the United Mission to Nepal to respond to the flooding and landslides in the Tarai plains of southern Nepal/northern India. The focus is to provide immediate relief to over 6,000 families with food and cooking supplies, temporary shelter, and hygiene and dignity kits.

Here's how to give financially to support the flood relief efforts of these organizations:

  • In person at our worship services, place your cash donation in an envelope marked “Flood Relief” and drop it in the offering plate. If giving with a check, please write “Flood Relief” in the memo line on your check.

  • Give securely by texting #floodrelief to 781-995-3435. We’ll bounce back a secure, mobile-friendly form for you to donate.

  • If you give online through MyGraceChapel.org, choose our Special Mission Project option in the fund menu and enter “Flood Relief” in the “optional memo” field.

As always, 100% of gifts designated for flood relief are passed through directly to this urgent need.

In addition to our giving of finances, will you give the strong and powerful gift of prayer to those suffering and in need?

 For the more liturgically minded among us, you might pray:

Holy God, source of life, lover of souls, out of the depths we call to you; in the face of incomprehensible anguish and sorrow, we lift the cries of our distress and implore you to show mercy upon those who are suffering from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey and the powerful monsoon rains in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. We pray for the loved ones who grieve, asking you to hold them in the arms of your love; we pray for those who have been injured in body, mind or spirit and ask you to heal them; we pray for those who are homeless and wandering, for families torn asunder, and ask you to shelter them. Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who assist in relief efforts, and grant us all firm resolve to stand with our neighbors who are in need, to love them and to offer our generous support of them in this their time of trouble; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City where the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Sustain those displaced by the storm with food, drink, and all other bodily necessities of life. We especially remember before you all poor and neglected persons it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  - Prayer from Episcopal Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas

Author and Bible teacher (and native Houstonian) Beth Moore suggests we remember Houston in this way:

Your aid to Houston after Hurricane Harvey will not be in vain. She’s a thankful kind of girl, our city. Her children try hard to take care of their own, but we’re going to need your help this time. We are devastated. They say it will take many months and perhaps even several years to put us back together again.

Please don’t soon forget us. Don’t forget our rescue workers. Don’t forget our law enforcement. Don’t forget our children and our babies. Don’t forget our poor. Don’t forget our homeless. Don’t forget our elderly. Don’t forget our sick. Don’t forget our residents who suffer mental disabilities. They are so disoriented and afraid.

And don’t forget our community of faith. We will work hard and long together. We serve a Savior who walked on water. One who can still rebuke winds and waves and spit out the words, “Peace! Be still! It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Beth Moore: “There’s No Place Like Houston,” CT Women

As the people of the Gulf region and the people of South Asia face the long road to recovery and restoration, may we—the Grace Chapel community—offer helping that really helps. Let’s continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus through our generous gifts of prayers and finances. And may the Lord show his mercy and grace to those who suffer from these disasters.

For additional info on ways to pray and think about the effects of Hurricane Harvey and the Flooding in South Asia:

“Hurricane Harvey and Our Response to Pray and Help,” by Ed Stetzer: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/august/hurricane-harvey-our-response-to-pray-and-help.html

“Devastating floods across South Asia killing over 1200 People,” (video report), BBC News, 8/31/17: https://youtu.be/SynUEN6m1rc

 “Houston floods, but what about all the other disasters?” Goergina Rannard, 8/30/17: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-41094892

“Thanks, but no thanks: when post-disaster donations overwhelm.” Jan 9, 2013, NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168946170/thanks-but-no-thanks-when-post-disaster-donations-overwhelm

“Wish You’d Done More to Help Houston with This Hurricane? Give Now, But Here’s How to Get Ready for the Next One,” Ed Stetzer: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/august/want-to-help-during-disaster-heres-few-dos-and-donts.html

What Kind of Faith Helped People Survive Hurricane Katrina? Jamie Aten, 8/28/15: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/what-kind-of-faith-survived-hurricane-katrina.html

“How Churches Can Help Without Hurting After Super Typhoon Haiyan,” Jamie Aten, 11/8/13: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/november-web-only/how-to-help-after-super-typhoon-haiyan.html
 

Welcoming the Stranger: Ways to Learn About and Serve Some of the Least Among Us

Summary: There are men and women, boys and girls, fleeing from violence, war and persecution. And now as they are displaced from what was once “home,” refugees turn to the nations for a place to make their new home. How can we as followers of Jesus respond? How should we?

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What a weekend this has been! In addition to it being Chinese New Year, the news of President Donald Trump’s executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” was announced on Friday, January 27, 2017.  Social media went nuts and concerned people in and out of our church community asked me, “What can I do?” “How can I respond?”

Personally, this executive order feels close to home. My parents are immigrants. My grandfather was one of the first Chinese immigrants to Boston, arriving in 1901. I’m as complexly American as apple pie, egg foo yung and Braintree High School’s varsity sports teams (lettering in 3 sports, pre-Title IX). Although the current restricted groups are from 7 predominantly Muslim nations, a longer view of history reminds me that the Japanese Americans were incarcerated by FDR during WWII and the Chinese were excluded from entering the US in 1882. Tragically, human brokenness is not restricted to geography, people group or nation state.

Now, we’re confronted with the largest number of people on the move since WW II. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2015, 63.5 million people or one out of every 113 people on earth or a little under 1% of the earth’s population is either "an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee." It’s a 5.8 million increase on the year before. (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/20/world/unhcr-displaced-peoples-report/)

These are men and women, boys and girls, fleeing from violence, war and persecution. They are desperate, wounded emotionally and many are without hope. They want the normal human yearnings of life – a safe place to raise their kids, the dignity of work so they can provide for their families, and the freedom of religion. And now as they are displaced from what was once “home,” refugees turn to the nations for a place to make their new home. How can we as followers of Jesus respond? How should we?

I sincerely believe that President Trump is trying to balance our national security interests with the humanitarian concerns of the millions who are displaced. What a tough position for him and how he needs our prayers! Whether one agrees with his executive order, how it was implemented or how it is being responded to, here are some ways for you to keep informed and to exercise your rights as citizens.

#1: Get educated. The refugee crisis didn’t start last Friday and global terrorism didn’t start with 9/11.

Two helpful books on immigration and refugees were written by World Relief staff:

Welcoming the Stranger, Sorens and Yang, 2009 

 

Seeking Refuge, Bauman, 2016

#2: Support a Grace Chapel Ministry Partner.

Did you know that we have been supporting ministries caring for some of the “least of these” for years through our mission partnerships, your prayers and your giving? Two of Grace Chapel’s partners have been actively serving refugees before the current executive order was signed – World Relief and the Greater Boston Refugee Ministry.

  • World Relief (www.worldrelief.org), has been one of the US government approved agencies to resettle refugees in our country for 35 years. They are experienced and a thoughtful, biblically based ministry working with local churches to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus in many global hot spots as well as in the work of refugee resettlement in our nation.
  • Another Grace Chapel partner, the Emmanuel Gospel Center has a ministry called the “Greater Boston Refugee Ministry” which helps train and equip local churches to welcome refugees who resettle in Greater Boston. Sarah Blumenshine has found her go! She serves as the GBRM co-director and is a Grace Chapel member, worshipping at our Wilmington campus.  https://www.egc.org/im-gbrm/

#3: Join a Virtual Community.

There’s a virtual community and a coalition of several evangelical ministries who care about this topic called “We Welcome Refugees.” (https://wewelcomerefugees.com/) This group believes, "we, the church, have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage together on a global scale and change the tide on this urgent and dire issue.”

In short, keep pursuing knowledge and information about a very complex, global issue. Read your newsfeeds and your Bible, side-by-side. Let the Scriptures inform your thoughts and actions. Check out some of our partners who are already working with refugees. Join others in our community to help you discover your “go!” And let’s be prayerful, thoughtful and respectful as we reach out to our friends, neighbors and church community on this important, potentially polarizing topic. The Scriptures teach us to pray for those in authority and to love others as we love ourselves. As our political leaders present policies to govern our nation, may we ponder and pray about what God’s invitation to each of us is. We may end up on different sides of the aisle but let’s engage one another and our diverse opinions respectfully, prayerfully, kindly and graciously as we care for “the least among us.”

Here's a blessing for us written by Benedictine nun, Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

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