I have always been a little uncomfortable when I hear someone referring to a natural disaster as an “Act of God.” Of course it is a legal term, meaning a natural disaster outside human control. God doesn’t need me as a defender, but when people refer to a flood or an earthquake as an “Act of God,” I want to blurt out: “Don’t blame God for this!” There is a human tendency, especially among religious folks, to suggest that anything tragic or unimaginable must be God’s will. Great damage has been done to people’s faith when they are told that a loved one’s murder must have been God’s will. Rather than giving comfort, it frequently drives people away. Who wants to believe in a God who allows, even delights in the suffering of innocents?
Natural disasters abound, both in the United States, and across the globe. Right now the ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response is active in:
Hurricane Harvey Relief
South Sudan Relief
Louisians Gulf Coast Flooding
West Virginia Flooding
Middle East and Europe Refugee Crisis
AMMPARO: Protecting Migrant Minors
Lutheran World Relief, a pan-Lutheran agency, works in 32 countries, doing 118 relief and development projects.
Closer to home, the Montana VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster), chaired by LPA Dick Deschamps, has been keeping close watch on the Montana fires, from the range fires in the eastern part of the state to the forest fires in the west. We have also been in conversation with synods in North and South Dakota, and with ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response about drought and possible donations of hay from the Midwest. The Montana Synod maintains a disaster fund, available to those experiencing disaster. It is made up entirely of congregational and individual contributions. You can send checks to our office, 3125 5th Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59405, with “Disaster” written on them.
If Montana and other states in the west are too dry, Texas and its neighboring states are too wet, as they suffer the havoc wreaked by powerful Hurricane Harvey. ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response is already helping. They send this message to all of us:
“Lutheran Disaster Response’s affiliate is actively present, collaborating with community leaders and officials to initiate the proper responses, particularly the long-term recovery efforts. Together we have a strong history of working with disasters in the Gulf Coast area. Recovery effort are expected to take years, and Lutheran Disaster Response will be there to accompany those affected through every phase of this disaster.”
How can you help?
- First, pray.
- Second, help share information through bulletin inserts (available at elca.org)
- Third, give to Lutheran Disaster Response. If you write “Hurricane Relief—United States” 100% of your gift will go to this disaster. Or you can give locally to the Montana Synod Disaster Fund.
- Fourth, do not organize in-gatherings of anything. Right now money is needed. Donations of items are more of a burden than a help.
- Fifth, do not self-deploy. When volunteers are needed, you can sign up with a reputable group.
Early Christians in Rome stayed around the city to care for the sick when everyone else who could do so fled. I am grateful that our church has maintained that tradition of care for those in need. I believe in a God who understands human suffering, and who sends us out to respond.
“ In my distress I called on the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18: 6)
Jessica Crist, Bishop