(A letter to First Christian Church BRLA members and friends)
Dear Friends –
We continue to receive news about Haiti, the ways in which Week of Compassion (The global outreach arm of the Disciples Church) and our partners are responding, in addition to the ways that we can respond.
Amy Gopp, the Executive Director of Week of Compassion says it best this way, “the best ways to help Haiti currently: 1-Pray, 2-Pay, 3-Stay.”
FCCBRLA hopes to provide you with opportunities to respond in these three ways.
We continue to offer prayers throughout the day, in our own time and in our own ways. However, we also invite you to join together with our church community in a time of prayer at 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening, January 18. The church sanctuary will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for those that wish to be in the sanctuary during this time of prayer. However, if you would prefer to participate in this communal prayer from where you are, home, work, school, wherever, we have attached a prayer for each of us to say together at 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening. We hope you will consider joining us in prayer either way.
You can make a secure online donation to Week of Compassion, here, https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=6566 We will also give an opportunity to make a special offering towards WoC and Haiti this coming Sunday during worship. Both opportunities give you the option of specifying that you want this offering to go directly to Haiti Earthquake Relief.
This suggestion is mainly in response to many who have expressed an interest in going TO Haiti to help with relief efforts. While many of us may want to help, the reality is that Haiti does not need a group of well-intentioned, but untrained, unskilled people trying to help but really getting in the way. This may be something that FCC can explore in the future as Haiti will definitely need help in the recovery efforts, but as of right now, the best plan is to stay put.
However there are also things that need to be done while staying put.
Stay informed, both on the relief efforts, but also especially in the ways our church partners are responding. Check http://www.weekofcompassion.org/updates/ for their latest updates. Kim and Patrick Bentrott and their son Solomon are missionaries from Disciples Global Ministries. They keep a blog and have posted a lot of their experience here, http://www.kimandpatrick.blogspot.com/
We can put together hygiene and baby kits, explained here by Church World Service, http://www.churchworldservice.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kits_main
We can continue to discuss the natural disaster with one another, paying special attention to the ways in which our children might respond to uncertainty in times of natural disaster. The United Methodist Church offers some good resources in helping your children cope in response to disasters, http://www.gbod.org/ministries/children/ or http://blogs.gbod.org/younger_children/
We are reminded in times like this that we are all indeed God’s children, and connected to one another through our own relationship with God. We respond in many ways through this connection. Please don’t hesitate to speak with either Michael or myself if you have any questions, concerns or prayers.
By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
The psalmist penned these words to describe the Hebrew people’s overwhelming despair after being marched into exile. An enemy far more powerful than they could reasonably resist had conquered them. They had been forced out of their homes. They left behind most of their personal belongings. No longer could they look out on the familiar landscapes of home. They did not know when or even if they would ever return home. With each passing day, fewer and fewer found the strength to muster the courage to hope. The psalmist describes it this way: “By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept.”
In Haiti we see much of the same reaction. While not a human enemy, something far more powerful than they could resist has conquered them.
They have been forced from their homes.
Many have little if any personal belongings that remain.
They can no longer look out on a familiar landscape of home.
And there is little speculation as to when or if life will return to the way it was before.
With each passing day, fewer and fewer find the strength to muster the courage to hope.
In the midst of the frustration of wanting to do something to help, but not knowing what to do, remember there is the opportunity to pray for and to weep with the suffering.
Don't underestimate that as a contribution. There is something greatly to be valued in prayer; something healing about weeping with those who weep. Indeed, "By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept."
God of compassion,
We come to you with heavy hearts,
at a loss for words.
Should we ask you for reasons?
Beg you for understanding?
How do we trust in your guidance?
But with all these questions,
we still humble ourselves before you in prayer,
knowing that you hear our cries, our concerns, and our questions,
even when we cannot voice them.
Watch over the people of Haiti,
weaving out of these terrible happenings
wonders of your goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
with a sense of your present love, and your power;
hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
may they find comfort in your presence.
Equip us to be your hands, your feet, and your body;
Guide us that we may truly be your presence in this tragedy.
Be with all those who have survived this disaster;
minister to their needs of mind and spirit,
of body and circumstance;
help those who are hurt;
give peace to the dying;
comfort and support the bereaved.
Guide those who are providing relief;
give them steady hands and calm hearts.
Allow them to be your serene presence
to those who are anxious and frightened.
Guide us as a church
to find ways of providing assistance,
ways that heal wounds and provide hope.
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer,
we all suffer.
We pray these and all things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.