A response to Hurricane Harvey

Published 9:37 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in a long time, is causing unprecedented and catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. More than 300,000 people were left without electricity and billions of dollars of property damage was sustained. Many fatalities have been confirmed and many more are missing in the Houston area.

“The word catastrophic does not appropriately describe what we’re facing,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents much of Houston. “We just don’t know when it’s going to end.”

A Look at the Numbers

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• 11 trillion gallons of rain fell on the state

• 51 inches of rain in some areas

• 13 million people under flood watch

• Thousands of rescues

• 450,000 people expected to ask for disaster assistance

• 30,000 people will need temporary shelter

• 215,000 students out of school

• 12,000 national guard members called out

• Approximately 60,0000 calls to 911 so far

• 58 Texas counties under disaster declaration

James in the Bible speaks eloquently of our need to share: “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all — it is dead and useless.” (James 2:14-17)

For the next few Sundays, many faith communities will respond with prayer, donations and supplies. Work crews will be formed but all the sermons in the world will never adequately show our love to the people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Our actions speak so much louder than our words. What we are seeing in Texas is devastation beyond our imagination.

What can you do? Here are tangible supplies you can donate and bring to your local church.

1. School kits: You can fill back packs with school supplies.

2. Packaged food: These are still major items of need.

3. Cleaning supplies: You can make flood buckets specifically designed for cleaning flooded buildings.

4. Money is always needed. You can donate through your church and allow the church to send the bulk to a trusted source. Our United Methodist churches rely on UMCOR so that 100 percent of your donation goes to help those impacted. Other denominations provide similar services.

5. Work teams: The rebuilding is beginning now with great needs for carpenters, electricians but also people with chain saws, people to pass out food or work in the kitchen.

6. Cots or air mattresses: These are needed to sleep the many folks working in the area.

7. Gift cards: This allows families to make their own choices based on different needs.

Susan Kim who often writes for UMCOR provides the following tips on what not to do as well as ideas on how you can respond to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

When disaster strikes, we see heart-wrenching images on television. People lose everything. Their homes are swept away or lie in a tangled heap. Their belongings are ruined. We immediately want to help — a good intention that stems from compassion for our fellow human beings. However, be certain to couple your compassion with good judgment on the best ways to help disaster survivors. Here are the top four most common pitfalls into which helpers fall after a disaster — and what they should do instead.

1. Resist the urge to jump from your couch and drive to the disaster site. When Hurricane Sandy struck the mid-Atlantic, scores of people decided to drive to New Jersey, New York and other affected areas. The result? Clogged interstates, a worsening gasoline shortage and volunteers arriving in droves and diverting the attention of emergency personnel. What to do instead? When you watch or read the breaking news about a disaster, respond immediately — with prayer or a cash donation.

2. Don’t give the shirt off your back. Did you know that donations of used clothing are commonly called “the second disaster?” When clothing piles up at a disaster scene, it must be stored, hauled away or sorted by volunteers who could better use their time helping disaster survivors. Instead, cash donations help disaster survivors purchase needed items from local businesses, which boost an economy weakened by disaster.

3. Don’t believe that recovery takes only a few days. Well-intentioned donors often give money or relief-supply kits only while a disaster is prominent in the news headlines. In fact, for a major disaster, recovery can take years. If donations dry up after a week or two, responders no longer have the resources to help disaster survivors. Those survivors feel forgotten, and their recovery doesn’t progress.

4. Don’t forget your own disaster preparation and training. If you want to respond in a safe, helpful way, seek disaster-response training and learn how to prepare yourself so you can respond should the need arise.

Over the next few weeks, God will provide numerous opportunities to provide aid for our brothers and sisters in Texas.

May we continue praying for God to use each of us during this difficult time to be the help that someone desperately needs.

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith.com.