It is so good to be back in the office after days and days of hurricane preparations and stress over where Dorian was going. Like all of you, I watched with horror as Dorian struck the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane and then parked itself over the islands for two whole days. I was praying as I know all of you were; for the people of these Islands, for their safety, for their sanity, for the comfort of Christ amid the storm. It was so hard to watch and feel powerless to do anything to help their pain and suffering.
Now, the storm has passed us. But as I write this, people along the coast of North Carolina are still in harm’s way due to storm surge, flooding, and tornadoes. It appears Dorian will be off the East Coast for several more days, wreaking havoc in its wake.
The question I have, and that I’m hearing from many of you is, “What can we do now? How can we help?” As we see the images coming out, especially from the Bahamas, we are driven to want to act and act fast. I understand those feelings as I feel the same way. So, the first thing I did yesterday was contact our Disaster Response Director for the Florida Conference and ask those same questions. Her response, in short, was pretty much what I expected and yet not as satisfying as I might want right now, “Give money and wait.” The fact is, Disaster response professionals must begin to assess the best way to respond. Infrastructure must be secured in order to bring supplies into the Islands and to be sure it can be distributed. All the experts I’ve talked to have said the same thing, “Please don’t start sending stuff, or anything, until we know exactly what to send, how to send it, and where to send it.” The quickest way to make a disaster more of a disaster is to respond without an appropriate plan in place. It might make us feel good to “do something” but the point in our response is not to make us feel good. The point is to help the situation.
So, we are awaiting further instructions. I know we are all tired of waiting. But for the time being, it is the right thing to do. But we don’t “do nothing” during our waiting. First, we continue to pray for the people of the Bahamas, those who are scared, hurt, and who have lost so much. We also pray for their leaders and those on the ground who are beginning to map out a response. Don’t take those prayers lightly. They make a difference.
Second, we can give, right now, to relief efforts that will be there, not just in the next days or weeks, but in the months and even years to come. The best way I know how to give is through UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. When we give through UMCOR, we are assured that 100% of our gifts will go to relief and recovery in the Bahamas because all their administrative costs are covered through our regular connection giving to this ministry. The beautiful thing about UMCOR is that they are already beginning to coordinate their relief efforts with other organizations. And, UMCOR will not just be there during the initial crisis, but for the years of rebuilding that must follow. When others move on, UMCOR is still there. For example, right now, UMCOR is still working with those here in Florida who are recovering from hurricane Irma. In fact, when I spoke with our Conference Disaster Director, she reminded me that they are still looking for work teams to go to areas affected by Irma.
This Sunday, I invite you to give, above and beyond your usual tithes and offerings, to UMCOR for Hurricane Dorian relief. Just write your check to Suntree UMC and put “Hurricane Dorian “in the memo line.
As soon as we get more information about other ways that we can help, whether it is by collecting certain necessities or putting together work teams to go to the Bahamas, we will let you know. I know that you stand ready and waiting to help. That is who we are here at Suntree and I’m so grateful for that.
This Sunday in worship we will be focusing on our membership vow that calls us to be a “witness” for Christ in the world in word and in deed as we reflect on John 1:35-51. We will be specifically focusing on the importance of learning to share our experience with Christ with others in ways that invite them to “come and see” the grace and love of Jesus. Sometimes, we need to use our words, our stories and experiences of faith to help others find their way to Jesus. But as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Sometimes the gospel is best embodied through acts of love and service in the name of Jesus. This is one of those times. I’m so grateful to be a part of a church where that kind of witness is second nature as we seek to love our neighbors in extraordinary ways.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,