Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough, in his role as president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, issued the following statement regarding the flooding in the Gulf Coast and the mudslides in Sierra Leone:
Heartbreaking … devastation … incomprehensible … are some of the words we use as we struggle to fathom the depth of the natural disasters whose images from Texas and Sierra Leone continue to tear at our hearts and souls. As you may be aware, Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas and the broader Gulf Coast, damaging more than 87,000 homes and leaving dozens of people dead. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, more than 1,000 people have died in mudslides that have damaged tens of thousands of homes.
This is not a time to theologize on why disasters occur. This is time to act in love in order to help our sisters and brothers who are victims of these tragic events. This is not a time to point fingers, but to raise our hands in praise to those first responders and volunteers who are already helping to save lives.
When we are overwhelmed by images of tragedy, whether from the mudslides in Sierra Leone or flooding in Texas, we wonder what we can do as Christians. Here are three things we can do as United Methodists:
Offer funds. Recovery efforts require money and so offering financial assistance is one sure way of demonstrating our love for our brothers and sisters who are caught in the wake of these natural disasters. Just like the first Christians in Antioch showed their love by sending help to Judea (Acts 11:29-30), we too should send donations through our local churches, our annual conferences, and our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Use U.S. Disaster Response Advance #901670 for Harvey relief and International Response Advance #982450 for Sierra Leone relief efforts.
Offer spiritual and emotional support. Our brothers and sisters who have been hit by this tragedy need more than just physical help. They need spiritual and emotional comforting. Our loving God gives us strength at times such as these and so we need to remind those in mourning that God weeps with them and that God comforts through all trials, as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us. Pray for all whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by the floods, and for those providing rescue and recovery assistance.
Offer practical help. United Methodists who are trained first responders are already on the ground to help, and time is coming soon when more practical help will be needed to rebuild homes, schools, churches, and businesses that have been inundated in Texas or buried under the mud in Sierra Leone. Those who are skilled in repair work should be ready to go and render assistance as soon as the authorities indicate that it is safe to do so. Please wait until you hear from UMCOR on the skills that will be needed in the rebuilding and repair work.
While we may not have all the answers about these tragic events, we must rest in the Christian hope that God’s love is constant. Through the heroic efforts of those on the front line, we can see God’s saving work. Through the generosity of those who are giving money and resources, we can see God’s love being shown. We must have hope that God will, through our work together, lift up those who are under the water and “out of the mud and mire; set [their] feet on a rock and give [them] a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church