There is a sharp contrast in the news reports coming from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. It is not that they conflict, as the reporting is seemingly decent. The contrast is in the reporting of how people are responding to the catastrophe.
Heroic helicopter rescues in one scene, looters in another. People working hard to soothe the devastated in one scene, people blaming everyone from the mayor of the city to the president in the next scene.
One thing that a catastrophe does is to expose people for who they are. It exposes me for who I am. I live close enough to the crisis to have 100 (will swell to perhaps 1000) refugees in my city. What am I going to do? I have the option of doing nothing. I also have the option of finding ways, little ways to help. Water? yes. Money? sure. Prayer? of course. But these people are housed in a shelter within a mile or two of my house. Can I connect? Should I connect?
This morning I looked around my house and noticed a washing machine, a shower, a phone, a bar of soap, food, and so forth. Suddenly these are luxuries. I have them and I am really close to some peple who used to have them, but now do not - and might not for more than a month.
Also, I went to work today - I have something to do. What do you do in a refugee situation? No work, no school, no entertainment, no privacy, nothing is easy.
This hurricane is not merely exposing the character of the people directly impacted by the storm, it exposes the character of a nation.
What can the church do? Will the church rise up and love New Orleans, Mississippi, & Alabama?
1. I am repulsed by people who blame other countries for not rushing to our aid. Get over yourself!!! If Bill Gates' house burns down, I'm not springing into action. He can manage. See what I mean? It is not that I don't care, but rather that he doesn't need me. If America cannot use the already available resources to recover, then we have no soul! If the catastrophe were greater than our welth, that would be a different story. It isn't. We have enough. It will take time and perseverence to get the resources to the right locations and time to reconstruct.
2. I am repulsed by people with this apparent "clarity" who feel qualified to assign blame to people for not building better levees, not getting food to this place or that, who chatter on about everything and do nothing to help.
3. I am upset with the fact that there is so much suffering. My heart has been aching for three days now.
Oh God, when tragedy strikes we wonder where you are. In the past you ahve taked tragedy and made beauty rise from the ashes. Can you come again and make beauty rise from the depths?
You have given America greater wealth than any other nation in history. You have already given us what we need to recover in material wealth. But God, give us the hearts of compassion to do it. We have the stuff, but I wonder if we have the compassion. Oh God, come with your spirit of mercy and fill us with it.
When a week passes, give us memories such that we do not forget that people still suffer. When a month passes, give us a reprieve from our attention deficit.
God, let your church speak your words of love and compassion through their rush to help, to heal, to restore people's lives. Mobilize this army of compassion called the church into an active and holy people who know nothing but love. Make a statement, God, please, that you love people.