By Joe Hendrixson, Week of Compassion Minister for Disciples Development.
"Week of Compassion can't afford to have tunnel-vision," begins Vy Nguyen, Executive Director of the relief, refugee and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. "While the floods have not yet receded from south Texas, another powerful hurricane (Irma) is taking aim on the Caribbean islands and, possibly, Florida. Forest fires are burning up and down the Sierra Nevada and further to the northwest. And in what has been labeled 'the world's forgotten catastrophe,' millions of people in South Asia are in need of urgent, life-saving support after weeks of torrential rain and catastrophic flooding in Nepal, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh."
Through Week of Compassion, you are present in all those places.
Humanitarian agencies say at least 1400 lives have been lost in the disaster and more than 45 million people adversely affected by torrents of rain across the four countries. While South Asia frequently suffers flooding during the monsoon season, between the months of June and September, aid agencies have deemed these particular floods "catastrophic".
Wide-scale flooding stretching across the Himalayan foothills has caused landslides and washed away tens of thousands of homes and vast swaths of farmland. Mumbai saw nearly a month's average rainfall in a single day. Week of Compassion is working with partners to provide shelter to the evacuees, as well as emergency needs and food and water.
Western U.S. Fires
Eighty-one large fires have burned 1.4 million acres in nine western states. More than 27,000 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildland fires in the West. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes.
Air quality has been rated unhealthy across the region because of blazes that show no signs of abating. The smoke from massive wildfires hangs like fog over large parts of the U.S. West, an irritating haze causing health concerns. The fires are likely to keep scorching Western states and blanketing them with smoke until later this fall.
People in small towns to the populous San Francisco Bay Area are affected. Week of Compassion is monitoring the fires and will continue to be in communication with our local partners and Disciples in affected areas.
Week of Compassion has been coordinating with Disciples pastors, congregations, and Regional and Area leadership in affected areas of Texas. We are offering the support of your partnership to them while they give support to their church members and wider communities. Associate Director Caroline Hamilton-Arnold says, "We will continue to be present in the coming days and weeks, knowing that recovery here will take years. The support of Week of Compassion will be needed for a long time."
For those who are anxious to "go help," remember that it will be awhile before these devastated neighborhoods are ready to host you. If you want to put your muscles to work, Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering have plenty of locations where work continues to rebuild from previous disasters in New Orleans, southern Missouri, Florida, and elsewhere.
The National Weather Service reports that Hurricane Irma now ranks among the most powerful hurricanes (as measured by wind speed) ever recorded. According to the NWS, Irma is the strongest storm ever in the Atlantic (not counting those that reached the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico). And it's not far off from the all-time record hurricane wind speed of 190 mph.
Week of Compassion is monitoring the storm's progress, and we have already been in touch with leaders in the Florida Region and the surrounding areas in preparation for the storm. Week of Compassion will continue to provide immediate and long term support.
Please continue to pray for the many who are in the path of so many storms. Through your partnership and support, the church is present during this critical time for so many.