For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
A year ago, Nashville was hit by a devastating flood. I remember watching the disaster unfold through my Facebook feed, wondering why my Nashville-based friends were reporting rising waters, vulnerable neighborhoods, and wondering why I couldn’t find any coverage on the national news.
So I did what we do, as Week of Compassion, in these situations. I got on the phone. I chatted with our Nashville churches. Information started to come in—a bit at a time at first, and then more and more. Soon enough, we got a picture of the enormity of the flooding, and we responded.
We reached out to families who lost their homes, and we reached out to the Regional Office of Tennessee, which was itself severely damaged. Working together with our partners with Disciples Volunteering, we devised a plan for bringing in volunteers from all over the country. Bellevue Christian Church and Eastwood Christian Church generously offered their facilities as mission stations for housing and feeding volunteers, connections were made with local long-term recovery organizations, and as a church, we got to work responding.
A year later, Nashville is in much better shape. There are neighborhoods you’d never guess were flooded just a year ago. However, there are plenty of places that remain untouched, in disrepair, standing as testaments to the trauma of a year ago.
And so we remain there. Disciples churches continue to send groups to help with the recovery efforts. Disciples Volunteering continues to find ways to make the recovery effort more efficient, provide volunteers with meaningful work, and bring hope to the households to whom they lend a hand.
Even as we have watched the recent swath of tornados tear through the Southeast, Nashville has not been far from our minds here at Week of Compassion. Last week, while preparing a sermon, I spent a lot of time thinking about the words from the third section of Isaiah, which I included above. The prophet’s words were for a people with a cultural (or in some cases, literal) memory of exile in Babylon, frustrated that their rebuilding was not as easy, as conflict-free, as joyful, as they thought it would be. Imbued with a sense of vision that Walter Brueggeman describes as “Prophetic Imagination,” the prophet’s words reflect faith in a God who remains present—no matter the tragedy, no matter how weighty the recovery seems—and who continues to create a hope-filled future:
I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
May it be so in Nashville, in Tuscaloosa, and all over the world—wherever there is need, disaster, or heart-break.