When a catastrophe as huge as Hurricane Katrina strikes, most of us feel overwhelmed by the scope of destruction, and we wonder what we can possibly do to make a difference. Some, like Kristi's daughter (read the post below this one), hold positions that take them straight to the front lines. We should keep all those people in our prayers. They face heartbreaking and exhausting conditions day after day.
But what about the rest of us?
The first and most powerful thing we can do is pray. God wants to meet the needs of the hurting. If we ask, I believe He'll provide for those in need and open doors to allow us to help.
We can give money. If we don't live close enough to offer a physical hand, we can donate to numerous organizations working to bring aid and relief. Samaritan's Purse and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief are two groups getting their hands dirty right in the midst of the suffering.
We can listen and respond. I live in East Texas. Hundreds of evacuees are living in our small town's Civic Center, hotels, camps, churches, and homes. Obviously I can't reach out to each one of them, but I can offer myself to the Lord and do what he gives me to do.
Trish, a young woman from our town visited various places where evacuees are staying, met people, and asked about needs. She told me about two sisters she'd met who were enrolling their two teen-aged daughters in the local high school. The teens had only the shorts and tee-shirts they'd been wearing when they fled the storm. Trish sighed and said, "I just wish I had clothes in the size they need."
"What size do they need?" I asked.
You guessed it. Both girls wear my size. I'm not a teenager any more, but I shop in junior departments. And I buy cute, stylish clothes--things my 22-yr-old daughter asks to borrow. I went through my closet, picking out items I like but could easily spare. Jeans, capris, skirts, fitted tees, button-down tops, dresses. I felt ashamed to have so much when these people had lost everything. After filling two boxes with nice clothes from stores like The Gap, 5-7-9, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, American Eagle, The Buckle, Aeropostale, etc., my closet was still jam-packed with more of the same. I won't even miss those clothes, and two teenagers will be able to walk the high school halls without being embarrassed about their appearance.
Since then I've met the girls and their moms. We've begun a friendship, and only God knows what will become of it.
Other opportunities abound in our community. Churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals are stepping up to the plate, including my church and at least one other organization I belong to. As long as there are hurting, homeless people here, the need for volunteers will remain. One person or one group could never handle a disaster of these proportions. But person-to-person or family-to-family or church-to-church, healing can take place and needs be met.
If you're feeling helpless, pray for those on the front lines. Then ask God to lead you to the open doors He has for you. Together we can shine His love and offer His hand--one check or meal or pair of jeans at a time.