The sun was shining outside my window. But in the area of Texas known as the Golden Triangle, the week was all about survival.
“Carrie, I’m scared. We’re on the second floor.” This chilling text from my aunt sent me into high alert. “House flooded. At my Mom’s. Water coming in here now, too.”
“Cut the breakers and call 911.”
“911 too backed up to get an answer. The water smells like gas from cars under water.”
After a wait of what felt like hours, a neighbor finally used a boat to rescue my loved ones. They had fled to a different house for safety. But many people weren’t as fortunate, and my Facebook newsfeed let me know the disaster was far from over. My hometown friends were posting private numbers and street addresses in all caps again and again, as if it were a 911 alternative: “HELP! MY GRANDMA HAS 3 FT! WE CANNOT GET TO HER!!!”
The ramifications of a traumatic event don’t immediately go away as the waters recede. Recovery can be a years-long journey and in the case of Hurricane Harvey multiple years may still await. Today, the effects are immediate: my hometown no longer has front lawns, just makeshift landfills. Families are sleeping with the stench of mold and face months of adjusters and agents, if they’re lucky enough to have the right insurance coverage. But soon practical issues will make way for the longer work of processing grief and the emotional aftermath.
Whether near or far, the church is called to be Christ’s hands and feet in a hurting world. How can we walk through the traumatic aftermath of Hurricane Harvey with our brothers and sisters in Texas? And how can this awareness and care extend to all those who are hurting—survivors of Hurricane Irma, flooding in Asia, and past traumas that linger in our memories like 9/11?
It begins with remembering.
Christianity is all about remembering by embodiment. We digest remembrance of Christ. We carry bread-of-life in our bellies. Its nourishment strengthens our hands and feet as we go into the world to pour out the abundance of God. During Jesus’s last meal with his disciples he took bread and shared it saying: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 NRSV). Through the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, we remember Christ’s great love for us, and his love and presence become part of us, sustaining us, making our actions an outpouring of God’s abundance.
The kind of remembrance Christ calls us to is active. While it takes intentionality to “remember actively,” it’s simpler than you may think. It is really all about friend-making. Christ has befriended us—unifying us with his body, uniting us to the whole church, bringing us into relationship with God and one another. While following a disaster our focus is necessarily mostly on survival, ultimately we are joined to a wider fellowship of suffering in Christ’s body. This fellowship can undergird us with strength.
Remembering by giving.
Jesus’s example of giving has as much to do with providing practical support as it does with building relationships. When the waters recede, we can emulate Jesus’s relational approaches to meet people’s physical and emotional needs.
One initiative I am part of, and you may be interested in joining, is The Church Lab’s Southeast TX Adopt-A-Class project. This project lets people (near and far) adopt one class of students to care for throughout the academic year. Volunteers can provide school supplies, donate funds, or be a pen pal. Another way to support those going through the aftermath of these crises is participating in or supporting Bible-based trauma healing care. These groups offer training, resources, and support to respond to trauma with mental health best practices and a Bible-based model for healing.
Remembering by encouraging.
The people in my hometown region of The Golden Triangle, and other Texans impacted by the hurricane, have given us an example to follow as we step up to support them. When the water rose, they rose to the occasion. They showed unparalleled, radical neighborliness. We watched it: the screams for help came and church members left their buildings in boats. They put the gospel into practice by becoming search and rescue teams.
When their spirits flag, give people space to tell their stories and actively listen. Help remind the people of Texas of their own strength. “Remember how Jesus was with you as you made feverish runs in a flat-bottom boat. Remember the loaves-and-fishes moments that kept you in awe at the shelter.”
Remembering by believing.
As we invest this friend-making energy toward those in disaster recovery, we open ourselves up to witness Christ multiplying our help like loaves and fishes to affected communities. Of course, to enact this, we have to believe in abundance. We are not to let the inundation of need lead us to self-paralysis. We are not to let a fear of scarcity keep us from giving joyfully. Instead, we get to exercise faith.
We are indeed a people of loaves-and-fishes faith (John 6:1-14). When we generously give from the resources we’re stewarding, we are often surprised how much we have to give. We must let generous love rule. Only then are we transformed by participating in the unforeseeable miracles of the kingdom in the thick of the storm (Matthew 14:22-33).
Jesus has been busy caring for the vulnerable in Southeast Texas—and all the suffering communities of the world. Now we get to partner with him—whether we are in The Golden Triangle or Houston, in other cities or countries impacted by crises, or finding ways to be supportive from wherever we are across the country. Let’s engage in active remembrance by finding ways to support those who are suffering that say to them, “You are seen,” long after the news reports move on and crisis aid finishes.
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Find practical ways to support those impacted by Hurricane Harvey
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