A few days ago, I received an email from a parent who wanted to find a way to talk with her child about what is going on in Southeast Texas right now.
Her child asked why God sent all the rain to Houston, which caused all the flooding and devastation.
What a wonderful, and hard, question from a young person of faith who knows that God is active in his life and in our world!
It occurs to me that many of us may be struggling with how to talk with our children about this. If so, I hope you will find the following helpful.
First, anytime your child (or you) wants to come visit about this, I’m here.
Now, a few talking points:
The most important thing — God does not make bad things happen. Period.
God always and only works for good.
We just finished a month exploring the story — Jesus Calms the Storm.
The point to the story isn’t that God (or Jesus) keeps challenging things from happening.
The big idea is that no matter what happens, God is with us and God’s love never leaves us.
So where is God’s love in something like a hurricane?
- Isn’t it amazing how humans have developed a way to tell, days in advance, when something like a hurricane is on the way? For most of human history that was never a possibility. But think how much time and energy was devoted to getting information to people before Hurricane Harvey ever made it to land. Think of how many lives were saved. One could almost call that a miracle.
- Even before the hurricane hit, groups like Red Cross and the United Methodist Committee on Relief had sprung into action. Thousands of people across Texas and the US are poised and ready to do their part to help. During times like this, Mister Rogers would always remind us “Look for the helpers.” God’s world is full of helpers!
See below for how we as a church are helping in a very focused, purposeful way.
- Facebook and other social media has been absolutely covered with messages from friends and family checking in on each other, praying for one another, and offering love, support, a place to stay.
So that is God’s love at work in response to the hurricane.
But what about in the hurricane itself?
Why are there even hurricanes in the first place?
This whole big beautiful world, with everything we need to live – food, water, oxygen, one another — is a tremendous gift from God. Part of our responsibility as children of God is to figure out how to live in harmony with nature.
But finding the balance can be tricky. This big beautiful world can be complex.
We all need water to live. Water refreshes us. It makes trees and flowers grow.
And it can also cause floods.
Fire can keep us warm on cold nights. It cooks our food and gives light.
And it can also burn.
On the flipside, even hurricanes and forest fires, which may appear to be only destructive, provide real benefits to the planet.
Forest fires (naturally occurring ones anyway) help clear out dead branches and allow new growth. There are even some seeds that can only germinate after a fire.
And here’s what hurricanes can do:
They bring tremendous drought relief.
They help build up beaches and barrier islands.
They move energy out of the hot tropical areas of the globe to the cold polar areas, restoring the heat balance to the planet.
They clear out weak/diseased trees.
Their winds help with seed dispersal.
None of this takes away from the destruction hurricanes can cause, but that’s a lot of benefits.
And it’s helpful to remember that hurricanes have been a part of this amazing earth a lot longer than there’s ever been a Houston . . . or a Texas . . . or people.
God didn’t choose to make a hurricane affect a city.
But many of the cities people have built and depend on are near where hurricanes can occur.
And we’re glad they did! Houston means so much to our country — shipping, culture, the space program…and most of all — the amazing people who make Houston what it is.
God’s people continue to grow and learn how to live in harmony with nature.
Every time something like a hurricane happens, we learn more.
We learn how to build sturdier buildings, bridges, and roads.
We learn how to make safer evacuation plans.
We learn how to get the word out to people quicker.
That’s God at work. God loves every single person down there very much. God is there with them, working for good by calling God’s people to help. And God’s people are answering the call.
They always do.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. – Isaiah 43:2
Our First Church community is in full force as we provide assistance both to those affected by Hurricane Harvey who have come to Fort Worth — and those who live in any number of affected communities devastated in this hurricane.
Here are some common questions our First Church family is asking, along with the most up to date information and answers we can provide.
How can I help?
Early Friday afternoon when projections of the coming storm were at their most dire, our church set up a special Hurricane Relief Fund so that we could respond quickly once the needs were determined. There are several easy ways we can give to support the relief efforts our church is part of, including:
- Give online using the Quick Give button and selecting “Hurricane Relief” from the drop-down menu.
- Make your check payable to FUMCFW, with “Hurricane Relief” in your memo line, and bring it to the church and/or drop it in the offering plate on Sunday.
- Text 817-241-2327 and enter the dollar amount and Hurricane Relief in the message bar. You must have a ShelbyGive account set up with the church in order to Text to Give.
- If you haven’t already, now is a great time to download the Shelby NEXT Giving App to enable giving right from your smart phone.
More opportunities will arise later, sign up to receive updates on how you can help. Here’s what you can do now:
- Flood Buckets
This Sunday, September 3, our youth will be assembling cleaning buckets containing supplies that enable people to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood. The congregation is invited to assemble buckets after the youth complete their shift at noon in the Justin Youth Building.
- Harvey Bags
Volunteers are needed at First Street Methodist Mission, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm to help distribute groceries and assemble Harvey Bags.
Contact: Linda Murphy | email@example.com | 817-339-2404
Join our First Church Faith community in prayer for all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, as well as the members of our Early Response Team as they go south to serve:
God of all creation, we pause to pray for all lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. We pray for those families who have lost loved ones, for those who have lost their homes and possessions, and for those physically harmed and emotionally distraught. We also pray for First Responders and for the many volunteers graciously coming together to help those in dire need. Please accept our prayers, our generous offerings and our outreach to our neighbors in South Texas.
Reverend Chuck Graff
Got more questions? Here are answers to just a few. Please watch for updates as they become available!
Q: There are so many funds to donate to, why give money only to our church?
A: The money you donate to FUMCFW Hurricane Relief will be used for the relief activities our church is sponsoring, including:
- funding Harvey Bags for families in town who are providing shelter
- equipping and sending our Early Response Team (ERT)
- serving those who come if we become a shelter
- assisting people affected as needs arise
- supporting The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) with any remaining funds; UMCOR donates 100% of funds received to relief efforts
Q: Will the church be used as a shelter for people displaced by the Hurricane?
A: Not at this time. As of August 28, the City of Fort Worth has opened two emergency shelters that will be managed by the city and Red Cross. To volunteer for the Fort Worth Harvey Relief efforts, register online. If the city asks us to, we will open our doors to evacuees and we will need volunteers so please sign up for updates.
Q: Will a team go to Houston to help clean up?
A: Our Early Response Team (ERT) has been invited to serve by the Rio Texas Conference and will leave within the next 10 days. If you are not a part of our ERT now, but would like to be in the future, be sure to sign up for our next training session to be held January 27, 2018.
Q: What are we doing locally for families who are hosting family and friends displaced by Hurricane Harvey?
A: Our First Street Methodist Mission is already ramped up and providing increased services. Having received extra bulk donations of food, diapers, and infant formula, our Mission volunteers are busy at work assembling what we’re affectionately calling Harvey Bags. Prepped and ready for pick up, each Harvey Bag will provide three premade bags of groceries, an assortment of personal necessity items, as well as any additional meat, groceries, and essentials available to us. If you have an immediate need for additional food and supplies for family members and friends you are hosting, or know of someone who does, please contact the First Street Methodist Mission.
Contact: Rev. Chuck Graff | firstname.lastname@example.org | 817-339-5065