Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. As the waters begin to recede, many people will return to their homes. Some will find everything just as it was while others might find their entire neighborhood destroyed. Several people will have lost loved ones. As we watch the news and scroll through social media, we can’t help but be compelled to want to help. Wherever you live, there are countless ways that you can help. Here are some of our favorite. It is important to remember that relief efforts are a marathon and not a sprint. When the media coverage dies down, the people of Houston, Florida and surrounding areas will still need help.
- Take time this week and pray for the those that have lost loved ones. Pray for those that have lost or have had damage to their homes. Often times, they have lost photos and important documents that they won’t be able to recover. Pray for the ministries, churches and organizations helping during this time. Ask God to provide the resources and energy needed to serve all of the people needing help, especially energy for the first responders and those providing medical relief. Pray for city and national leadership as they make decisions that will help alleviate the region. Ask God to use this circumstance to draw people together in unity and draw people to Himself that might not know Him. Pray for protection. Pray against looters or others that might try to take advantage of the situation for their gain.
- If you are able to volunteer for the relief efforts, go! All types of volunteers are needed from medical and first responders to people willing to cook meals and sort. Find a church, small group or ministry to go with. Also, make sure that you are coordinating with a group locally that you will be helping. In some cases, only volunteers with special skill sets like medical or construction will be allowed in certain areas or to do certain tasks. It is best to coordinate with a local group that way you are aware of any specific guidelines.
- Collect items. Don’t just send something because you want to get rid of it from your closet. The best thing to do is find out what the actual needs of are for a church or group that is serving locally. Many have posted lists on their website or social media. Things like diapers, water bottles, baby formula, bandages, and clothing. There might be local groups that are mobilizing items to be sent and sometimes national organizations have drop-off areas where you can donate items that they will deliver. If you have a business or company that produces products that are needed, ask your company if they would be willing to donate some to send. There are also lists of what not to send. These things often take up space of items that are needed for daily survival versus a comfort item.
- Some organizations and churches can best be supported through financial giving. It is important to vet out any group that you send donations to and even more so during a relief effort. Often times, people create fake pages or causes to give to and play off people’s emotions. We find it helpful to partner with organizations that have been doing relief work for a long period of time, ministries that we personally know, or a friend/family member that has been personally affected.
- Be a catalyst. Check and see if your church has a sister church or organization that has been affected in the area. Ask them what their needs are. There might be specific families that you can adopt in prayer and physical needs. Organize a church-wide collection of items needed. Gather your small group or friends if they have the ability to go and volunteer even if it is just for a couple of days. Pray and ask God to guide and direct you how you should help and encourage others to action as well. Often times, God has given us relationships, unique experiences, and access to resources that we can use to help others.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
— Matthew 25:35,26