Hurricanes

Hurricane Lester on Approach to Hawaii

We’re in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season. This week’s devastation expected from Hurricane Florence on our country’s East Coast is a stark reminder of the reality of our country’s vulnerability to these powerful and violent storms. Here are a few other examples:

Today, September 13, is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Ike (2008), which ripped through the Houston and East Texas area, flattening homes and obliterating entire towns with a huge storm surge that destroyed buildings and businesses along Galveston’s Seawall.

August 29 was the 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (2005), an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing catastrophic damage from central Florida to eastern Texas, devastating the city of New Orleans.

August 29 was also the 1st anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s arrival in Houston (2017), damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses in that huge city and, for several days before and after, in other smaller communities along the Texas Gulf Coast. Flooding of homes and highways in Houston captured the media’s attention, while equally serious damage in smaller communities lagged behind in news coverage and recovery efforts.

Other historic storms in America include, to name only a few of the worst, Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), Charley (2004), Rita (2005), Wilma (2005), Sandy (2012), and Irma (2017).

A few days after Katrina’s and Ike’s arrival I made trips from St. Louis to affected areas, visiting people, pastors, and congregations. Those efforts were simply tokens of encouragement, prayer, and support for those whose lives were drastically affected by the wind, waves, and rising water that inundated their homes, churches, and businesses. More tangibly significant is the work of those who contribute their time, money, and energy in recovery and restoration.

Recently I asked Julie Tucker, Director of Disaster Response for the Texas District LCMS, about ongoing relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Here are excerpts from Julie’s response:

Though headlines from Harvey have faded, the devastation is still apparent, especially in the Coastal Bend and Golden Triangle regions. But thanks to generous support, homes are being restored and families are being helped. To date, 3,519 people have volunteered, 107,252 volunteer hours have been logged, and 325 households have been helped. One area recently reported to me that they have hung over 18,000 pieces of sheetrock – in one area!  

Progress is clearly being made. But, of course, there is still much to be done. At one of our sites, 356 homes have requested help. Another site reports 300 homes still awaiting some kind of assistance. Clearly, the need is massive. Experts predict recovery from Harvey will take five to ten years. Our work continues and your support continues to be needed.

You can help by donating to our Disaster Relief Fund. Remember, 100% of the funds collected are used to help those in need. You can also sign up to serve at one of our sites. Or, even better, you can do both! Please consider how you might be able to help. Your help is sorely needed.

I cannot thank you enough for your prayers, your gifts, and your willingness to lend a hardworking hand. The devastation of Harvey is no match for your generosity and love!

Until they all know Him,
Julie Tucker

Check out this link for a first-hand look: https://youtu.be/PFImCIMuQi4

Thank you for any assistance you, your congregation, and your community can provide for the thousands of people still reeling from the damaging effects of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

Lord, have mercy!

Last Week in America and the World

Dallas Shooting

Credit: DallasNews.com

What better way to end this seventh year of Perspectives articles than with a few observations about our church body based on last week’s 66th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Milwaukee? While inclined to do so, I’ve decided to begin the eighth year of Perspectives with an article on that topic next week. Today I feel constrained to address other events that occurred last week and at too many other times in our nation and around the world.

Insane and premeditated attacks and ambushes, bombings and brutality, vitriol and violence continues to plague our nation and world! For starters, I would hope and pray that anyone in a position of political, racial or religious authority and influence in our country and around the world would immediately cease any hint of verbal justification of such atrocities and instead denounce these barbaric activities unequivocally!

Rationalization or justification of violence in any form empowers those with a propensity toward such behavior, precipitating new incidents that take the lives of innocent women, men and children. Black lives matter! White lives matter! The lives of those unjustly treated by officers of the law matter! The lives of law enforcement officers matter! The lives of grieving family members of those who die matter! Young lives matter! Old lives matter! Unborn lives matter! All lives matter! Jesus came to give life, in all its fullness! (John 10:10) Life is precious!

Might gun control legislation be helpful? Perhaps. I see no need for rapid fire machine guns to be as readily available as they appear to be. Yet the reality is that gun control alone will not deter those who are ideologically or mentally or religiously imbalanced from doing the dastardly deeds we’ve seen way too frequently in recent months. When Cain killed Abel thousands of years ago, he had no firearm at his disposal. Yet he did what he set out to do.

The real root cause of all evil, especially the kind we’ve recently seen, is spiritual depravity. The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21). The devil will always walk around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). King David was beset on every side by enemies who hated him (Psalm 25:19). Jesus was brutally killed. So long as the world exists, man’s inhumanity to man will continue to wreak havoc upon peaceful, law abiding citizens.

What can you do? What can I do?

  • Pray for, encourage and express appreciation to law enforcement officers and military personnel.
  • Petition political and religious leaders at every level to speak out against violence of every kind.
  • If you see something or someone suspicious, say something to someone who can help!
  • Pray for all who lay their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of our land.
  • Take appropriate protective precautions wherever and whenever possible.
  • Pray for divine intervention to thwart the devil’s destructive desires.

Above all, say this: Lord, have mercy!

Immigration

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

In recent months attention has been given in our country to the tens of thousands of people, including many children who are making their way to our border. Seeking admission as immigrants, many of them come from countries in Central America, where life is, in many ways, not very good. In addition to poor living conditions, violence is prevalent in their homeland.

An Associated Press article this week stated: “The U.S. government announced Monday that it will soon close three emergency shelters it established at U.S. military bases to temporarily house unaccompanied children caught crossing the Mexican border, saying the flow of illegal entries has declined and capacity at other shelters has been expanded. Since Oct. 1, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been apprehended crossing the border. Administration officials have said as many as 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September. ”

While the dilemma facing our country is probably a whole lot more complex than most of us realize, two issues come quickly to my mind:

  1. The freedom they seek is not free. Somebody has to pay for the food, clothing, shelter and education needed to survive and to thrive in our country. That burden falls mostly on the federal government and/or the communities in which these modern day immigrants ultimately settle. Some communities simply say they cannot afford to bear that burden or that they do not want to be responsible for the care of illegal immigrants.
  1. Immigrants are children of the heavenly Father. Simply to turn them away, many miles from the homes and families they left, is difficult to reconcile with biblical injunctions such as the words of our Lord Jesus himself: “I was hungry and you fed me…I was a stranger and you welcomed me…As you did this to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 5:35, 40)

There are many considerations to this dilemma in addition to the two mentioned above. The issue of immigration has legal, moral, biblical, humanitarian, spiritual and emotional components.

If there were an easy solution, someone would have suggested it by now. To ignore the problem, hoping it and the children at the center of the controversy will simply go away, is irresponsible.

Individual Christians, who are also law abiding American citizens, have something to say and many things to do. Let our voice be heard! Let our love be seen! Let God’s grace abound!

Angels of Mercy

Flooding in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Credit: NY Daily News

Flooding in Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Credit: NY Daily News

Both in America and across the globe we continue to experience tragedy and trauma produced by natural disaster. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, floods in Texas and tornados in Illinois and Michigan have drawn our recent attention to the vulnerability of humankind to unimaginably powerful forces of nature.

In the news reports we often see photos of areas of devastation that once were cities or towns and survivors who are also victims searching through piles and pieces of what were once their homes. Even more sadly, emotionally gripping photos portray the trauma of serious injury or the grief of a parent whose young child was taken from their arms by flood waters or tornado winds.

Several months ago I received a note from Chris Wicher of the LCMS Eastern District, a district president friend of mine who had heard a story that some would dismiss as coincidence but, for people of faith, displays God’s activity in our lives. Here’s the story:

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A few pastors and other men were driving around the flood area of Pittston, Penn. earlier this week, looking for people who needed help in cleaning up their flooded homes. They came to a couple standing in front of their home, simply staring at their house.

The car stopped and one of the pastors asked if they needed help. The people responded: “No, not really. We don’t know where to begin and besides the house does not yet have electricity restored.”

The would-be helpers told them who they were and that they were simply driving around to see if they could be of help. “Besides,” they said, “we have a generator and pump and mops and buckets and Clorox.”

Quite moved by their generous offer, the homeowners took them up on their offer and in a few hours the cleanup was completed. If kindness and generosity were not enough, here’s the thing.

Not five minutes before the carload of generous helpers offered their assistance, the couple prayed to the Lord for direction and help! God heard their prayer by sending some very good hearted men. The love of Jesus moves us to acts of kindness. God be praised!

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For me the point of this story is that whether near or far away from the scene of any kind of disaster, God calls his people to assist those affected most seriously. Such folks could accurately be called “angels of mercy.” May their host increase!

Responding to People in Need

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Many people have many needs. On any day in America, Christian people in and beyond their churches demonstrate genuine care and concern in response. While this is nothing new and while many churches, both in and beyond the LCMS could also be mentioned, I’ll share in this article the stories of three LCMS congregations of which I have become aware this past week.

The first is Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston, N.D. An article in the September 12, 2013, edition of The Dickinson Press tells the story of how this congregation has been providing temporary housing for job-seekers who can’t afford other arrangements.

Unfortunately, the facilities being used for temporary lodging are not in compliance with city code. That includes inadequate bathroom facilities and lack of handicap inaccessibility.

The Williston Planning and Zoning Department has declared that until the church remodels its facilities to meet building and fire codes, including addition of fire-protection sprinklers, the church will need to discontinue its “overnighters” program. So those who would otherwise be served by Concordia’s generosity will need to sleep in their vehicles or somewhere else.

The second and third are Redeemer and Christ Lutheran Churches in Fort Collins and Aurora, Colo., respectively. Facebook postings from good friend and Redeemer’s Pastor Tim Runtsch show team members from Redeemer and Christ responding to community needs in the aftermath of the horrendous flooding in that beautiful state, especially in the Boulder area.

In a few days folks in Colorado have received rainfall equivalent to their annual average and are experiencing historic flooding as a result. Homes have been destroyed, dams have been broken, and bridges have been washed away. Working together, members from Christ and Redeemer have distributed “a huge load of goods for people in need.” Remember them in prayer.

While only a few congregations are being highlighted in this article, you and I know that they are simply but significantly representative of many others whose pastors and people are moved by the love of Christ to respond to people in need. Similar responses also come from individuals and other groups, both in and beyond the Christian community.

As you hear their stories, express to those involved appreciation for their faithful service, generous contributions and diligent labors! Perhaps you already have been or will soon be moved to respond!