“Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron”
It has been a weekend of remembrance. Five years ago, Hurricanes Katrina, soon followed by Rita and Ike, swept into the Gulf Coast, altering how we look at that region, our country, and ourselves.
More than that, it changed how we look at ourselves as a Church. Through the Disciples Hurricane Recovery Initiative (DHRI), a partnership among Week of Compassion, Disciples Home Missions/Disciples Volunteering, the Great River Region, the Southwest Region, and so many of you who donated your time, skills, and resources, we were able to respond in a way that was unprecedented in the life of our church.
Since the DHRI began, more than 11,000 volunteers have made their way to the Gulf Coast to help with recovery and rebuilding, contributing more than 437,000 hours of labor and building the equivalent of at least 175 homes. Countless lives have been changed.
In Psalm 77, the writer recounts the escape from Egypt, and imagines the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds. In the ancient world, water was often associated with chaos, something that those of us who have seen the destruction brought on by a hurricane, whether personally or via a media report, can surely relate to. But the Psalmist remembers that it is God—the liberator, the protector, the parent of humanity—who brings the freed slaves through the dangerous water, with the help of Moses and Aaron, the prophet and priest (other versions of this story, such as in Exodus, emphasize the prophetic leadership of Miriam, Moses’ sister, too).
It strikes us, on this anniversary of such devastation, that we are perhaps a church full of Miriams, Moseses, and Aarons. It has been God’s sacred work to lead the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Gulf Coast, to “trouble the water,” as is sung in the spiritual, but it has been the people of this church—all those who have given—who have been the prophetic and priestly partners in this work.
It has been you who have worked to turn tragedy into a miracle . . .and this work continues!
Disciples volunteers will be putting the finishing touches on the rebuild of Northwood Christian Church, Beaumont, TX, a church that, despite totally losing its sanctuary, has practiced a powerful ministry of hospitality for groups wanting to aid in recovery efforts. Disciples volunteers remain “the only game in town” in Lake Charles, LA, as First Christian Church continues to live out its ministry of relief and recovery.
We also remain committed to those who are facing the chaos of water across the country, and all over the world. So many of you have given to help the people whose lives have been affected by flooding in Pakistan. Likewise, neighborhoods in Nashville and communities around Des Moines, Iowa, are still struggling with serious flood damage. We are also in the middle of hurricane season, and are carefully watching Hurricane Earl to see what sort of threat it might bring. We urge you to continue partnering with us—whether it is through a designated gift to relief in Pakistan, or an undesignated gift that will help us respond nimbly and quickly should a hurricane touch shore.
Through your leadership, we continue to make a difference in communities affected by disasters. It is your hands that lead us, and for that, we are incredibly grateful.