These are indeed unprecedented times. The gravity of the season in which we find ourselves can be devastating – and is for many. It only takes a quick scan of your newsfeed to become overwhelmed by the images of hospitals setting up COVID care facilities in parking garages, or the scenes of chaos, murder and mayhem from Afghanistan, or video clips of the destruction caused by earthquakes and powerful storms in Haiti, wildfires in the western U.S. and/or deadly flash flooding in Tennessee. Just one of these things would be painful and heart-wrenching to behold, and yet they are all unfolding at once. And when combined with the vitriol and angst that flows so freely on social media and in the news commentaries, it can make one wonder if there is any good that can be done.
In a time of disaster, we are called to sharing Christian help. I remind us all to Breathe Deep. Jesus is still Lord, and that is a very good thing. Times of devastation, destruction, illness, exile and persecution are not unprecedented. The Lord knows our human need and calls us to help with hope-filled sharing.
These last several months have been a powerful reminder that this great big world is smaller than it seems, and that we are citizens of a global community. What happens on the other side of the world or on the other side of the street impacts us all and simply cannot be ignored.
Our Lord Jesus lays before us the great commandment to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The earliest Christians responded to this commandment by giving generously and graciously to those in need (Acts 2:45). The people and churches of the Central Texas Conference have similarly responded time and time again when disaster, disease or other crises have struck our communities and world. Now, as earthquakes, wildfires and floods wreak havoc around the globe, it is again our turn to reach out in the name of Christ and offer aid.
That’s why, as many of you have already received notice of via email, I am asking every church in the Central Texas Conference to take a special offering for Disaster Relief this September. I’m also calling on every person in the Central Texas Conference, as well as those called Christian everywhere, to intentionally pray for those directly impacted by natural disaster, political/military upheaval in our country and around the world.
Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been wracked by wars, civil strife and invasion. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with high infant and maternal mortality rates. Today, the country is again at a point of transition with great uncertainty about its future. The images of Afghans seeking rescue at the Kabul Airport have shocked the globe. The Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan has brought to a head the real threat of repression or death to ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls. Upwards of 550,000 Afghans are internally displaced, which is in addition to the nearly 3 million Afghan refugees documented as of 2020.
The United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) is working with its global partners in the region to determine what assistance is most helpful at this time and the best avenue for ensuring humanitarian relief reaches the country. Again, I urge to you be in prayer for Afghanistan. While the request for a Special Disaster Relief Offering does not currently include financial support for relief efforts in Afghanistan, the Cabinet and I will continue to closely monitor the situation. Once UMCOR shares its plan to address the mounting needs, we’ll provide updates as to how the Central Texas Conference can support those efforts. To read more about UMCORs relief response in Afghanistan, visit ctcumc.org/praying-for-supporting-afghanistan.
Helping Those Wrecked by Natural Disaster
Thousands of our sisters and brothers have recently been displaced and lost family and friends due to natural disaster. The images and reports of the destruction, desperation and death continue to be poignant reminders of the power of nature and our responsibility to respond to our sisters and brothers in need. As Paul reminds us, in the body of Christ, when “one part suffers, all the parts suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
On Aug. 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake brought widespread destruction in the western region of Haiti. Thousands of people are homeless after the quake destroyed more than 37,300 homes and damaged another 46,000+. More than 2,200 people are dead, another 12,000 are injured and hundreds are missing and feared to be trapped in rubble. To exacerbate the situation, a tropical storm battered the island delaying rescue efforts and several hospitals have been severely damaged or destroyed, while those still operating are overflowing and lack medical staff and supplies.
As of this writing, there are more than 90 large fires burning in the U.S., mostly west of the Rockies. There have been more than 41,000 U.S. wildfires in in 2021, consuming 4.5 million acres – more than a million acres more than this time last year. Tens of thousands of people are still evacuated and waiting to learn the fate of their homes and livelihoods, and experts expect fires to rage through the fall and into winter.
This weekend, what witnesses are calling a “Tidal Wave of floodwaters” rushed through Middle Tennessee, killing at least 22 and causing severe damage.
Paul reminds us that in the body of Christ, when “one part suffers, all the parts suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26) and encourages us to “never get tired from doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Still, from earthquakes in Haiti to storms and wildfires in the U.S. to violence in Afghanistan to the latest COVID variant, it can be easy to get exhausted and become paralyzed by compassion fatigue. I am confident that this will not be the case for the people and churches of the Central Texas Conference. Your faithfulness to heed the cry of the needy has been inspiring throughout my time as your Bishop. I thank God for the long-standing generosity of the Central Texas Conference. (The most recent example being the giving received in support of our Annual Conference offering as more than $19,600 has been received so far to support the ministries of Methodist Justice Ministry and Justice For Our Neighbors.)
Thank you in advance for doing what disciples of Jesus Christ do for people who are hurting and in need – giving of themselves. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; (2 Corinthians 9:11)
Donations received in support of Disaster Relief should be sent to the Central Texas Conference Service Center, Attn: Disaster Relief, PO Box 50517, Fort Worth, TX 76105. Monies received will be distributed via UMCOR to support relief and recovery efforts in Haiti, and directly to Annual Conferences affected by the wildfires and/or flooding to rebuild churches as requested. For more information on these Disaster Relief efforts, visit ctcumc.org/DisasterRelief_2021.