My heart is moved by photos like this–families struggling with harsh realities in the wake of hurricane Sandy this week. My own family endured similar circumstances following Hurricane Katrina a few years ago. The loss of home, business, belongings (and sometimes life) is devastating, and people caught in the turmoil feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless.
I want to do something to help, though I can’t get there and wouldn’t be of much use if I could. My prayers will continue for days and even months for restoration, and I believe in a God who can make all things new. So I will let my faith guide my prayers. I can contribute money, too. God works with the sacrifices we offer, and money is one of those precious sacrifices–at least for most of us. It’s not much in terms of wealth, but today I made a donation online.
I always try to donate through my church and I recommend the practice to others. Any church will do. I respect the American Red Cross and other relief agencies, and there’s nothing wrong with contributing through them, but I know my money goes farther through my church. That’s because there was already a caring network in place to help people –a network of local churches and church agencies–whose mission includes help for the helpless. That’s what churches do, day in and day out, and they don’t need to create much infrastructure to help now. Our people, fellow Christians, were already there helping and serving before any catastrophe happened.
Because of the regular mission giving of thousands of congregations, there are teams that stand ready to help all over the country, all over the world, wherever the next disaster may happen. That means there are fewer time constraints, fewer administrative fees and hurdles standing between my donation and the help it can offer someone in need.
I’ve seen this over and again following disasters in the USA or in the Caribbean or in rural India. Dollars have greater impact because of dedicated mission workers and local church volunteers. They stretch the resources. More are assisted. The network simply expands a bit.
And the best part is that the church doesn’t leave after everything gets cleaned up and after the news crews depart. The church will be there to continue the help and provide ongoing support months and years from now. That’s true in New Orleans and it will be true on the east coast.
If you want to contribute, do it through a church, any church. My denomination, The United Church of Christ, welcomes any contribution, and pledges to be a good steward of your dollars. They’re there for the long haul.