So by now, you’ve probably heard about the devastating tornadoes that ravaged our state and knocked on the doors of several other states on Wednesday. As of today, the overall death toll is at 337, with 238 of those deaths coming from Alabama alone. In addition to the deaths, more than 1700 Alabamians were seriously injured during the storms, thousands of people have lost their homes, and hundreds of thousands remain without electricity and seriously low on drinking water and food. The sheer weight of the situation makes it difficult to deal with.
As we think about how this natural disaster has affected our region, it is possible for us as Christ-followers to take a few different approaches to responding to the overwhelming needs of so many people:
– Total Indifference: This is a perfectly viable option that many have chosen. It is a ‘sucks for them but oh well’ attitude. If this is your approach to this disaster, I would encourage you to reconsider calling yourself a Christ-follower.
– Functional Indifference: This is another option that is slightly easier on the conscience. Those taking this approach are simply overwhelmed with the weight of need. They really want to do something to help, but don’t really know what to do or just feel like their contribution would be so small or insignificant that it would be a single tear attempting to suppress a forest ablaze: utterly useless. So, they say they are praying for the state, they post a few thoughts on facebook, they add a #WeAreAlabama hashtag on twitter, but ultimately, they do nothing. This is simply a more palatable version of the previous response.
– Action: This is the final (and best) response we can have as Christ-followers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should be blindly packing up the trucks and heading out the doors and up the interstate. But we should be doing something!
For many of us, we can’t take off a week of work to go north and help. But we can give money to help those who are going to help. We have disposable income, whether we want to admit it or not. So I challenge us to give. Give to the Red Cross or your respective denominational relief agency or to a church that is putting together a relief trip. Sacrifice a meal or two out on the town so that people in our very own backyard can eat a hot meal in what used to be their back yards. Sacrifice your entertainment budget for the month so that people can live. Put the lives of people in one hand and your own temporary pleasures in the other and ask God which he would have you to value more.
As a church, we at The Vineyard are going to practice loving people as ourselves. This Sunday, we are going to sacrifice for the good of others. We are a small church, and our impact will certainly be smaller than some other groups with greater resources, but our impact will not be missing. So here’s what we’re going to do:
Each week after the service, we go out to eat as a church. I’m guessing each person spends at least five or six dollars on a meal. This week, we are going to replace our after-service meal on the town with a much cheaper meal of Little Caesar’s pizza and bottled water at the Shack. I figure we can save at least two or three dollars a person. I am challenging us to use that money saved as a starting point for a special offering we will be taking up to give directly to disaster relief. Let me reiterate: we will be taking a special offering of money to give to disaster relief, and I want you to give at least that much to the offering. My hope is that you will be creative by sacrificially rearranging some other aspects of your life so that you can give above and beyond the $3 you’ll save on your meal. I hope you will be willing to sacrifice that new gadget you’ve been saving for or a new outfit you’ve had your eye on so that others can have their most basic needs met through the love of Christ.
So there you have it. This Sunday night, we’ll have a special offering for disaster relief. You have been warned. Bring your heavy hearts and your open wallets and let’s make an impact in this overwhelming sea of need in our own backyards.