By Pastor Jerry Donovan
The people of the cities and towns impacted by hurricane Harvey are still being rescued as I write these words. At least another 12 inches of rain is possible in many areas as it slowly moves towards Louisiana. People all over this nation and world are heart broken by the suffering and tragedy that these poor people are currently suffering. What can we do for victims of hurricane Harvey?
First pray! O God, you divided the waters at creation. In Christ you stilled storms, raised the dead, and vanquished demonic powers. Tame the earthquake, wind, and fire, and all the forces that defy control or shock us by their fury. Keep us from calling disaster your justice. Help us, in good times and in distress, to trust your mercy and yield your power, this day and forever. Amen
I was part of a relief team sent to the city of Orange Texas after hurricane Rita basically destroyed that town, and I serve as a volunteer on our Church’s early response team. A mistake some well-meaning people make is seeing the damage and the helplessness of so many people, and decide that they need to go and rescue some people. The problem is in these emergency situations resources are very scarce, such as food, water, shelter, gasoline, and medical services to name just a few of the issues. In many cases people showing up with the best intentions of helping end up actually needing assistance themselves taking valuable resources away from those in need. So, the first rule in these emergency situations is to wait for an invitation from those who are managing the rescue effort. Lone ranger super heroes aren’t needed. Well trained groups are required. If you feel called to do this type of work, there are many organizations looking for volunteers to add to their teams such as: the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and emergency response teams formed by cities, counties, and even churches to name a few.
Another common mistake is collecting and donating items that are not needed. Often people answer the call for basic items that people need as a time to empty their closets and garages of “stuff”. Unuseful items collected and delivered to these people living in desperate and deplorable conditions are actually an aggravation because nobody wants them and they end up taking up valuable limited space. The most needed and hardest to deliver need is clean water for drinking and washing. Water is cheap but it weighs 8.3 pounds a gallon making it extremely expensive to transport. Basic issues such as getting clean or going to the toilet are extremely important to these people.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) suggests a basic cleaning kit that is given to and used by the residents of these impacted areas. It consists of a 5-gallon bucket with a resealable lid containing the following items: one 50 oz. or 2-25 oz. bottles of liquid laundry detergent; 12-16 oz. liquid household cleaners that can be mixed with water (no spray cleaners); 16-28 oz. bottles of dish soap; 50 clothespins; one 100-ft. or 2-50 ft. clotheslines; 7 cellulose sponges removed from packaging; 24-roll of heavy-duty 33-45 gallon trash bags removed from the box; 18 cleaning wipes, handi-wipes or reusable wipes removed from the packaging; one can air freshener; one 6-14 oz. can of insect spray; 2 pairs heavy duty kitchen dishwashing gloves removed from packaging; one pair work gloves; 5-scouring pads (nothing with soap in it) removed from wrapper; one scrub brush; and 5 dust masks.
Of course, money is always needed by many organizations. We all will be receiving strong requests from these organizations for our donations. I have discovered that sometimes the organization that brings tears to my eyes turns out not to be the best steward of the funds donated to them. I suggest that you investigate the charity before you give them your money. On the internet charitynavigator.org is a good place to see how an organization rates among similar charitable organizations. Of course, I am biased and would love to tell you the story of UMCOR of which our church is a part. Many UMCOR teams are staged and ready to begin helping with the cleanup of the homes of these people. 100% of the funds donated to Advance #901670 at umcor.org/donate or thru your local Methodist church are used to purchase materials needed for those who were impacted by hurricane Harvey.