Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
The Cycle of Compassion
responding to Missouri & Kentucky floods
A key component in the work of disaster response, preparation, and readiness is the disaster response cycle - the way events, circumstances, and emotions mix together in the days following a crisis. Warning, impact, emergency/rescue, relief, assessment, long-term recovery, (new) normal, preparation. Phases move one to the next, sometimes back and forth, sometimes skipping a step, or coming back to repeat another. The cycle always continues, because that’s what cycles do.
But Week of Compassion bears witness, day in and day out, to something else, something just as powerful and life-changing - the cycle of compassion.
The phases of this cycle aren’t always smooth and clear either; it comes in high tides and has low ebbs; it involves both deep ache and great celebration, and a lot of things in between. The full cycle may not complete for months or even years - but it’s there, in motion, all the same. Where God’s people are in need, God’s people are also there in response.
Beginning the morning of July 26, St Louis and surrounding counties saw more rain in 14 days than in any two-week period in its entire history, including single-day (July 26) totals between 7-12 inches, where flash flooding caused significant damage.
Several years ago (2016), youth from Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa served a summer mission trip in St Louis, including a day with the Memorial Boulevard Christian Church food pantry. The assistance program out of this multiracial and multilingual congregation serves the church’s neighborhood, including a large number of single mothers. These relationships mean that when the most recent storms arrived, the community knew where they could look for help, and the church was ready to respond.
And coincidentally? Within those same few days, a whole new group of Harvard Avenue youth was in town, serving through Union Avenue Christian Church’s Urban Mission Inn. One of their efforts? Cleaning the sanctuary at Memorial Boulevard, to get it spruced up and ready for the July 31 installation of that church’s new co-pastors.
Meanwhile, only a few miles away, Centennial Christian Church knew most residents of a neighborhood apartment complex had been temporarily displaced by water damage and did what they could to help. Gas cards were available for those who now had longer drives to work, and assistance came from many directions. And then, as already planned, on a beautiful July Saturday, the church hosted its back to school party and community cookout. As they shared, “Today was a great day for our members and community friends to reconnect following the storms and flooding in St. Louis. There was no way we would allow the flood to kill our spirits.”
And the cycle of compassion keeps going …
While the attention and focus of the state was on the rain, floods, and aftermath, children at the Disciples Mid-America Region’s Faith Adventures church camp received an offering of more than $1000, shared with Week of Compassion, designated for the response in Ukraine. These youth help the whole church remember that just like need, compassion and generosity know no bounds.
Only two days after St Louis experienced its 1-in-1000 years rain event, July 28 saw the same massive rain and flooding strike eastern Kentucky, killing dozens, swamping entire communities - many areas still in the throes of recovery from record flooding just a year before.
Because churches realize that being prepared before a crisis comes means you can serve most effectively when it does, Week of Compassion’s partners at CWS (Church World Service) were stocked with clean up buckets. In the first wave of response in eastern Kentucky, these were shipped to waiting ground crews in the area who could help families right away. At the same time record numbers of relief applications are being processed by agencies in eastern Kentucky counties, Week of Compassion’s ecumenical partners are organizing for the long-term recovery.
First Christian Church in Mayfield KY knows what disaster, response, and compassion look like up close. In December 2021, FCC took a solid hit from the rare winter tornadoes that consumed the area. They’ve also been overwhelmed by the cycle of compassion turning their way, including a response grant from Week of Compassion, extending the care of the whole Disciples church. Among the many gifts Week of Compassion has received to support the ongoing recovery from eastern Kentucky flooding: a check from First Christian Church, Mayfield, eager to pass on the blessing and compassion they received.
Neither tragedy nor blessing happens in isolation; crisis and disaster do not wait for one to end before the next occurs. We are always paying attention to more than one thing at a time - in our homes, churches, and communities. The disaster response cycle and the cycle of compassion often overlap and run together. Abundant life is found in the middle of the mess - alleviating suffering, transforming it into hope. This is the mission and vision of Week of Compassion, and the work of the whole church together.
Because where God’s people are in need, God’s people are also there in response.
photos: Harvard Avenue, Memorial Boulevard, and Centennial Christian Churches, via Facebook;
Week of Compassion file photo
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