Hurricane Florence and Recovering with Faith

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My wife and I were evacuated from coastal Carolina in front of hurricane Florence. We were now refugees caused by a ferocious storm. Then we began to get calls and text messages. They all contained a simple message, “be safe.” In turn we sent the same message to our neighbors as they made their plans.

What did phrase “be safe” mean to us?  For us it was remarkable outpouring of a response and a symbol of human kindness that we both believe is the predominate nature of humanity. In an age where we are bombarded by images of human frailties, these two small words replaced those images with a powerful statement about the greatness of human compassion.

The hurricane has reaped its havoc. We will all have to band together to resurrect our community. There will be months of turmoil to fix what is broken. But our job today, as it is with any of life’s setback, is to respond faithfully. Our job today is to help our neighbor, and respond with our faith. “Be Safe” will be replaced by another statement that reveals the essence of goodness in humankind,  “Can I Help?”

As the Chairperson and President of a non-profit called, A Future With Hope, that was created to help with Super Storm Sandy’s recovery in New Jersey, I know what lies ahead. I know that these next days will require patience and calm. I know those recovering will be exposed to scams and scam artists. I know there will be days when all seems lost. I know that at times our civil authorities will seem indifferent. But these are only the transitory weeds of life that we will see.

We will see something much bigger and grander. Like in prior disasters, we will see American’s rise up once again and ask if they can help. The same people who told us when we were leaving, “be safe,” will arrive with their tools. Corporations will donate money, material and labor. The American Red Cross will assume their position on the front lines of another recovery, as they have for the past 137 years.

We will see the church respond as it always does. The United Methodist church and its relief arm UMCOR will collect donations and hands to help. Catholic charities will provide clothing and shelter. The Mennonites will show up with tools and their masses to help rebuild. The institutional church and the their massive support systems will be among the first to arrive. In our local communities scores of faithful Christians will give us acts of kindness.

I have seen this before, as one of the leaders of a non-profit designed to help in relief recoveries. Now I will be both, one of those being helped and one of those helping. I have no fear and amongst the storm I am calm. I know two things exist that fight back against the evil of disasters and those who desire harm. I know God is with us and so are our American neighbors.

We will see God in the charitable work of many. We will see God in the quiet conversations of consoling. We will see God in the children who come to help. I saw this powerful response with the people of the New Jersey shore. This organization named using words from Jeremiah [29:11]; “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

As I sit the morning after, more than three hundred miles away, I know what lies ahead. I have learned it is mostly how we respond that is important. Do we cry out in despair or trust God and humanity to help. These will be difficult days ahead, perhaps months or even years. But we will still have to answer this question that stands before us, “how do we respond?”

Certainly evil abounds with both the effects of the disaster and the few who will take advantage of the weak. But evil never prevails despite its momentary gains. God and humanity combined will push back and rise up once again to win this never ending cycle of calamity.

In this struggle, we will have to be patient and resolved. We will have to avoid giving into despair. We will have to remember that we have a God of promises, who never fails. A God that promises we have; “A future With hope and plans for our welfare.”

We will rise up and rebuild this future with a hope.  

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by ål nik