Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tragedy, saints, and bastards

One of the things I haven't moved into the apartment yet has been the's packed in the back of the garage where my stuff is stored (safe, but inaccessible). So most of my news about the tragedy in Louisiana and Mississippi this week has been through the colorful imagery of public radio. Thankfully, one of the NPR flag-ships, WBEZ-FM, is here in Chicago (think of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! and This American Life).

Several images I heard yesterday touched me deeply - either with joy or anger. The first was a fellow who lived well out of the blast-zone of the hurricane, but who had a small motorboat. He heard how the search for survivors was happening by helicopter, but mostly by boat, and told how he'd thought about disasters in the past: "If I could get there, I'd be glad to help out." Well, it seemed he could get to this one - and his wife said, "If just one person could be helped, it would be worth it, wouldn't it?" So off they rode, bass boat in tow, and he's probably out on the waters in New Orleans, even as I write this.

The images of power and utility workers from all over the country streaming into the affected area - just because there's a need - makes me tear up, as well. Yeah, I'm sure there's bonus money involved - but the folks I know don't do that kind of work (and risk those kinds of risks) because they're hungry for money. In any storm situation I've ever been in - the hideous ice-storm of several years ago in Kansas City, where more than a third of a million people were without power for a week comes to mind - I've always given thanks for the men and women who wade through the water, climb the icy poles, working in the worst of conditions to restore power to an electric-dependent community. They, too, are saints to me.

And then there was the image of a little girl, coming out of the broken door of a beauty supply shop - with beauty supplies with which her mother had clearly filled her arms. As so many commenters yesterday said, I can understand and accept people stealing food, formula, flashlights, batteries, grocery items - the survival stuff. But the people who broke into a Wal-Mart and were carrying off vacuum cleaners, TVs, DVRs, and the like - those are the folks I'd love to slap into stocks and publicly spank...for about a week. Maybe more.

I saw on the ELCA's website that their Disaster Response team was there - but I haven't heard yet a Matthew-25 call from the churchwide office to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty. I heard the McCormick Tribune Foundation was already coordinating fundraising and matching donations 50% - but I haven't heard any of the Christian denominations standing up and saying, "We are called to serve - and this is what we're going to do." (I am, of course, waiting to hear that Pat Robertson has declared the hurricane to be the judgement of God against the sinful city and all the homosexuals that live there - but that's old news, any more...)

It's so easy for me, in a dry (if chaotic) apartment, under sunny skies, with power and clean drinking water, to judge what I would and wouldn't do. At best, I can hope for what I might do, and pray against what I hope I wouldn't. For now, all I can do is pray for everyone down there - especially for the ones who are displaced, homeless, hungry and thirsty...and hope that people of faith will vote both with their feet, their wallets and their prayers to help.


John said...

Thanks for this post. If you are without tv, you can follow the local coverage here:

Deanne said...

Being raised a Baptist in Texas, I know the Texas Baptist Men are usually prepared to help when disaster strikes and it looks like they've already deployed 7 relief teams. There are other groups that fall under the Baptist General Convention of TX that are helping as well. (

I think that a lot of church activity during these times occurs on the individual church level, and it's not as "big" as what the Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc. are doing, and because of that you don't hear as much about it on the news. But do not despair...the church is at work! :)

Dave said...

I want to hear what Pat Robertson has to say about the storm messing up Alabama and Mississippi. Are his pet southern states getting a judgement of their own or Maybe God's aim is off?
Joyce Meyer Ministries (which I support) is sending teams and supplies and requesting special donations speciffically for it. Stuff is happening.

TN Rambler said...

The call has gone out and people are responding. UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, from it's central distribution point in Baldwin, La (about 100 miles west of New Orleans) is in the midst of it all and is co-ordinating it's efforts with FEMA, the Red Cross and the local confernces that have been affected in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida (let's not forget that South Florida experienced Katrina's wrath first).

United Methodist churches throughout the country are responding by collecting the items that are being reqested through UMCOR: blankets, bottled water, food, health kits, etc. All of these items are being sent to Baldwin for distribution to the areas where they are needed the most.

I'm sure that all of the churches with disaster relief agencies are responding in like manner. The pattern of how we are to respond in Matthew 25 has been taken to heart and we are responding.

Our prayers are with all of those affected by this tragedy, the like of which our nation has never known, and with those who are working to provide assistance.

Mumcat said...

Episcopal Relief and Development has already sent over $100,000 to the area bishops who probably have a better idea of what is needed than folks sitting in offices a long way away from the destruction.

Over 1100 bloggers have pledged to blog for the next few days about Katrina and the various relief efforts. I looked this morning and the reported total is over $400,000 to various charities from the Red Cross to the ASPCA and many denominational relief efforts.

People are doing their best. Denominations are doing their best.
Becuase you don't hear about them doesn't mean they aren't there. Most denominational relief efforts are on the quiet side -- which follows Jesus' idea that one should give alms quietly, without calling a lot of attention to how wonderful you are and how much you're giving. The media is more than willing to help in that part of the effort.

Anonymous said...

I live in Tennessee and I know that there are churches all over the southeast sending people and supplies to the areas hit by the hurricane. The churches are actually responding quicker than the government has. Many in the area have taken in families and are helping with finances in our area for families in hotels and at church shelters. I have been so moved at the response. Our church actually had a crew of 20 high school kids go to Mississippi for the Labor Day weekend with two trailer loads to feed and minister. It is a shame that stories like this do not make the news. All we hear are the blame game and why the government took so long. God is working, you just don't get to read about it.

As a side note, I really enjoy your blog.