Christians Respond Quickly in Devastated Texan Coast

by | Sep 16, 2008 | Charisma Archive

Though the destruction will require much more
than charity, Christian networks are proving to function as some of today’s
best first responders to natural disasters.
 
Christians Respond Quickly in Devastated Texan
Coast
[09.17.08] After a massive hurricane lashed the entire Texan coast last
Saturday, leaving coastal towns underwater and thousands of inhabitants in need
of help, Christian groups from across the nation responded quickly to the crisis
with truckloads of supplies.
 
“[Evacuation] help, staging areas for relief distribution, shelters,
warehouses and distribution sites were in place in the strike zones before the
storm made landfall,” said Doug Stringer, founder and president of the
Houston-based Somebody Cares America (somebodycares.org), an
award-winning relief ministry whose staff and volunteers rode out Hurricane Ike
even as their Houston offices lost power and had windows blown out.
 
“[But] we are in desperate need of things like water, nonperishable food
items and cleaning supplies,” Stringer said. “The devastation is wide, and the
needs are extensive up and down the Texas Coast and into Louisiana.” 
 
Though Christian organizations nationwide were quick to respond to the
victims of Ike, leaders from relief organizations are complaining that maybe not
enough attention is being paid—at least not when compared to the damage
inflicted by Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
 
“Ike has left the Texas coast looking like Katrina was here,” said Bill
Horan, president of Operation Blessing International (ob.org). “Folks down here are in a
state of shock, plus they are hot, hungry, thirsty and wondering where the
cavalry is. They need a lot more help than they are getting and they need it
now.
 
He added: “Sadly, the nation’s attention is not focused on the Texas
devastation the way it was with New Orleans following Katrina, so most Americans
are unaware of the massive damage and suffering that we are seeing.”
 
But even if a lack of widespread support is evident it has not impeded the
outpouring of Christian involvement both before and after the massive storm
struck. One ministry out of Springfield, Mo., staged its relief trucks a safe
three hours away from Houston before the 500-mile wide hurricane pummeled the
Texan coast.
 
“Our relief teams are rushing truckloads of food, water and ice to
desperate people right now,” Hal Donaldson, president of Convoy of Hope
(convoyofhope.org), said last weekend as his trucks moved into the area
on the weak side of the storm.
 
“This relief and recovery effort will take many weeks. This is a time for
Americans to come together, to reach out to people who have lost everything they
own.”
 
The disaster relief team at Samaritan’s Purse (samaritanspurse.org)
packed semi-trucks in North Carolina days before Ike made landfall in order to
head south and “help people who just won’t have the ability to pick themselves
up,” said Kirk Nowery, the group’s chief operating officer.
 
Along with providing aid to those in dire circumstance, the group also
hoped to introduce residents to the gospel. Nowery said that Franklin Graham,
president and chief executive officer of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association, told him before they pulled out for Texas: “We’ll get
as dirty as we have to get to earn the right to share the gospel of the Lord
Jesus Christ just one time.”
 
A Texas storehouse belonging to World Vision (worldvision.org)
served as a hub for thousands of state-supplied cots, ready to be distributed to
evacuees and the homeless. “A lot of people just evacuated for Hurricane Gustav
and are now low on cash,” said Todd Haumann, a storehouse manager in Dallas.
 
“Some families haven’t even unpacked [since Gustav] and now they’re leaving
their homes again [and] may not have had the time to stock up on supplies.”
 
Aside from supplying children’s clothing, shampoo, toothpaste,
toothbrushes, body wash and hygiene kits, World Vision also sees the value in
“play therapy.” The humanitarian giant shipped two pallets of Hasbro toys and
games to help occupy the time of children and families sheltering at the Dallas
Convention Center.
 
Stringer, whose building in downtown Houston was condemned after Ike, told
Charisma a major challenge his organization faces since Katrina, which
drew enormous media coverage, is how meager the public resources and funding
have been during some recent Gulf Coast storms.
 
He also attributed shortfalls in public responses to a weak economy,
“compassion burnout” and also people being plain “tired of giving to large
organizations that spend [up to] 80 percent of the money on administration
rather than helping those on the front lines.”
 
But he said he was very encouraged by a flood of phone calls from
Christians to a makeshift office he’s set up at a local Houston parish. “Here’s
what’s amazing,” he said, citing an example. “A church in the ninth ward of New
Orleans that we helped out during Katrina, and other churches we helped to get
them out during Gustav, they were the ones calling us before and after Ike to
say: ‘How can we help you?’
 
“Through the relationships we have from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, things
are so much smoother than when we were trying to get things going back then. The
kingdom of God is already established and people are in place,” he said.
 
“People call it ‘networking,’ but a lot of nets don’t work,” he said. “The
only net that truly works is the body of Christ [when it] is looking at doing
what Jesus said, and that is serving people by washing their feet so to
speak.” —Paul Steven Ghiringhelli

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