Not on my Watch!
“Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2
“It looks like Armageddon, Dad!” That was the description my daughter gave us over the phone as the Waldo Canyon fire roared over the ridge and into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in Colorado Springs.
My wife and I had just left New Orleans where we had spent a week on a mission project. We had just arrived in Branson for some vacation time when our daughter called to tell us of the firestorm roaring into the city. We knew many people with homes in that area, including one family that was with us in New Orleans, and were concerned about the safety of everyone in those neighborhoods.Sadly, one elderly couple perished in the fire.
When it was over, 346 homes had been destroyed—77 of those belonging to families in our home church.
If not for the heroic action of the firefighters who courageously went into the fire with a fierce determination to save as many homes as possible, this could have been a truly catastrophic event for Colorado Springs. As it is, except for a few visible burn scars on the side of the mountain, most people would not know that whole neighborhoods lay in ruin. Our hearts go out to those who lost everything, but we’re grateful there weren’t more.
Now that the fire is over and the community is in the process of rebuilding, many will face that task with resolve and a ‘can-do’ spirit. A few will find it difficult to accept and will harbor anger and curse God. The amazing outpouring of support from the community and people outside the community has made an impact on everyone and giving them hope that they can rise from the ashes. It’s easy, however, to engage in an initial burst of support, then turn our focus to the next disaster and forget the ongoing challenges and needs still unmet in the one before.
Take New Orleans, for example. Six years after Katrina the rebuilding is still going on, but few people are aware of the enormous needs that still exist. Many more lives were lost and homes destroyed in Joplin, Missouri last year or in the tsunami in Japan. And let’s not forget the earthquake in Haiti. Yet, in each case, once the initial emotion connected with these events dies down, so does much of the needed support.
The reality is that community support and assistance long after the event is past are even more critical than the initial needs. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of a sudden media blitz highlighting the tragedies and devastation caused by a major disaster and jump to the rescue. That’s the easy part. The hard part—the part that requires commitment and sacrifice—happens when all the media crews are gone and the actual recovery process begins.
So, how ought we to respond after the hype dies down? Grandparents and parents have a perfect opportunity to model self-sacrifice and compassion in these circumstances. Our recent trip to New Orleans with a team of grandparents and their teen-age grandkids opened my eyes to the needs we often fail to see and the opportunities to reach out and encourage the hearts of those still hurting. In the process, our hearts were encouraged and strengthened, and I believe our grandchildren learned things we could not have taught them in their normal circumstance.
I encourage you to speak with leaders in your church about building opportunities for inter-generational ministry to victims of disasters in your own community or elsewhere. The needs are great and the opportunities to bless others even greater. In my church, leaders are already coordinating and organizing opportunities for serving those impacted by the fires for as long as it takes. Physical, emotional and spiritual needs are all part of the process. All the generations will be working together to serve those needs. Frankly, grandparents ought to be on the front lines of these efforts modeling Christ’s love as conduits of God’s blessing.
One church in New Orleans was unable to continue their school after the flooding. So they converted their buildings into a facility to house volunteers who come into the city to help with the rebuilding process. They not only coordinate various projects for volunteer teams, but house and feed them in what was once their school and church sanctuary. It’s called Camp Restore (www.camprestore.org/) and is an example of how one church continues to reach out and serve the ongoing needs of the community in a powerful way.
Remember, just because a disaster is past, does not mean that the needs are met. Investigate. Find out where you can help and then get involved. Use these opportunities to teach your grandchildren about the importance of looking to the interests of others and making Christ look great. And remember these words from our Lord: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). May the peace of Christ that passes all understanding fill the your heart so that you may bring His peace to those who are in desperate need of inner peace.
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