Aid, the Gospel and America’s ‘tsunami:’ Katrina
September 6, 2005
On Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew slammed into South Florida, devastating parts of Miami, Florida City and Homestead. At that time we lived only a five-hour drive from Miami and our church family joined thousands of others in providing relief effort. Although you can see the pictures and the TV reports, you cannot imagine the immensity of destruction that a “class five” Hurricane leaves behind until you have been to ground zero. It is like a military bombed war zone, only without the craters.
When we arrived with trailers loaded with supplies of all kinds, we had a sister SBC church in Homestead that we were to deliver the supplies to and work out of. There were no road signs. Everything was flattened. I mean flattened! The local police gave us directions like this, “Go down this street for four blocks and when you come to where the McDonalds restaurant used to be, then turn left and go one mile to where the Texaco station used to be.” We would drive looking for tidbits of signage to confirm the streets and turns, incurring flat tire after flat tire from all the debris.
When we arrived we found people desperate for water. Our cases of bottled water were the most sought after supply we had. When they discovered we also had ice, the recipients were ecstatic.
As I write this note to you, it has been three days since Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Those who believed they could “ride this one out” and those who could not get out before Katrina hit have now exhausted all their bottled water and food. It is hot and the humidity is at 100 percent. For the first time in many of their lives, they find themselves with no electricity, no air conditioning, no refrigeration, no running water, no way to take a bath, their food has run out and their home is sitting in salt water that has poured in from Lake Ponchartrain. Many who survived the storm will perish from dehydration or disease. Today, there are no jobs and no paycheck, because the place where they worked doesn’t exist anymore. Even if the place of business survived, there is no one to sell products to.
It is a desperate time.
Long before Katrina even formed in the Atlantic, Southern Baptists were preparing. Men and women were trained, equipment was purchased, what-if scenarios were discussed and plans made. As I write, one of Missouri’s Disaster Teams is already at their assigned place of service in McComb, Miss. A Cape Girardeau-based feeding unit and a chain saw unit have left, receiving their assignments even as they are in route south. Other MBC Disaster units will – or have already – be deployed.
You are being represented by these men and women. They will be on assignment until the need is fully met. Some will be deployed for up to three weeks at a time, be rotated home and then redeployed for more service. Your Cooperative Program is at work, in cooperating ministries all across the south. But they need even more help.
These disaster relief teams need your prayer, physical and financial support. Every penny of every dollar that is given to the MBC disaster relief effort will be channeled to the places of greatest need in this disaster. Our MBC Disaster Relief teams will be working in coordinated efforts with the North American Mission Board, the American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Did you know that more than 90 percent of the meals served by the American Red Cross in ALL disasters in the United States are prepared by Southern Baptists?
Some of the relief effort may even end up here in Missouri as one report suggested that Louisiana and Mississippi refugees cannot find places to stay and are coming as far north as Southeast Missouri. Two of our Associational Camps are now preparing for the possibility of hosting groups of Gulf Coast refugees.
Our MBC staff point man coordinating our efforts is Danny Decker. His office is handling a mountain of phone and e-mail messages right now. Pray for Danny and our Disaster Relief teams. Once we feed a hungry person, clear a fallen tree, or provide a clean shower, the next day that person will again be hungry and will again have other physical needs. Pray that in the process of physical ministry, many will come to Christ when they have the Gospel shared with them.
Disasters have a way of tenderizing the hardest hearts. Today, in Southeast Asia our International Mission Board reports that Muslim people are coming to Christ in the wake of the Tsunami in unprecedented numbers. Why? Because they do not see their wealthy Muslim “friends” showing up and helping them in their crisis, but they do see hundreds and hundreds of Christians providing hope and help. As a result, they are coming to Christ.
We have just had our own “tsunami” — Hurricane Katrina. Pray for the harvest.
Jesus seems to have a special affinity for the poor. He took notice of the widow as she gave her two mites at the temple (Mk. 12:42); He took notice of hunger that the 5,000 and the 4,000 had no food (Matt. 14 and 15) and He fed them. He told us that when we have a feast, we are to invite the poor, not the rich (Lk. 14:13). He healed the blind who had no hope (Mk. 8 and 10). He told us to take the Gospel to the poor (Matt.11:5).
Now is the time for us to meet these desperate needs of an impoverished people. Will you go? If you can’t go, will you give to enable others to go?