Harvey: What can I do?

Published August 31, 2017 by



The pictures from Houston, Northeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana are beyond belief.  The number of people effected range in the hundreds of thousands. As with many natural disasters, many good people are asking; what can I do?

As a person who has seen the fury and aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, witnessed the devastation of family members after Hurricane Sandy, and experienced four hurricanes through “Hurricane Alley” on Long Island, I have some suggestions that might be useful.

1.   Pray.  Needless to say that is obvious and important. The letter of James says, ˜the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  Pray for the people effected, pray for the workers, pray for leaders in Texas and in our nation.

2.   Contact effected family and friends.  After a natural disaster, people are in a state of shock.  I have heard of football coaches weeping and moms just sitting and staring at their broken houses and broken lives.  People need to be encouraged.  Ask how you can help with immediate needs.  One thing I learned from Superstorm Sandy is that things that were needed were not available locally.  Trying to find generators, water pumps and SAFE space heaters in the aftermath of Sandy was impossible.  I could get generators, water pumps and space heaters in Virginia but that didn’t help if I was already up in New York.  Call and ask.   Also commit in your mine to help for at least a year.  FEMA does a good job but they are not quick and often have to follow a process.  It can take months to get help and that doesn’t help the single mom who has a leaky roof right now.

3.   Give money wisely through efficient organizations.  I was stationed in Key West, FL during Hurricane Andrew.   Although we were without power for about a week, we really dodged a bullet and many people knew it.  They donated tons of clothes and blankets and sent them up in a truck to Miami.  The following week, I was up doing a site survey of Homestead AFB and security facilities in the area and, unfortunately, there were truckloads of clothes abandon on the side of the roads.  Some had been picked through.  Some were soaking wet.  It was a mess.

I learned that some relief organizations can do a better job of supplying people than I can.  They are able to buy in bulk, get contributions from large donors, and pre-stage needed equipment.  Samaritan’s Purse has always been one of my favorites and they are operating in Texas right now. (https://www.samaritanspurse.org/disaster/hurricane-harvey/).   Our Southern Baptist Convention and State Convention (https://bgavdr.org/responses/hurricane-harvey/) has a network of organizations throughout the country who will work with effected localities to make sure that donations are used efficiently and effectively.

4.   Plan a mission trip to the effected area…then do it again.  Most Americans have a ten minute attention span.  Yet the tragedy continues long after the news trucks and FEMA leave.  Ten years after Hurricane Katrina the clean-up continued.  The same with Sandy.  A commitment to a hardworking intensive mission trip helps.  We are talking about a well-planned, executed mission emphasis.  Once again, there are great organizations that will help you plan and execute.  But be aware mission tourism has become a big industry and some offer a chance to get your hands dirty a few days but accomplish very little.  Are you wanting to make yourself feel good or to help others?

5.   Get trained now for the next time.  Most disaster coordinators will tell you that coordinating untrained volunteers is sometimes like working with an unguided missile (ready, fire, aim).   On the other hand, trained volunteers are golden.   There are a lot of local organizations that will help get you trained so you can have a real impact.  My son and I are members of Civil Air Patrol and we go through extensive Emergency Services training.  Virginia Baptist Disaster Response (https://bgavdr.org/responses/hurricane-harvey/) will train you.  But be aware they expect you to do something with that training.

6.   Don’t feel like you have to do everything, BUT do something.   God calls us to respond to the needs of the world around us.   Often a physical need provides an open door to answering a spiritual need.   The immensity of the task can sometimes be overwhelming but rest assured you are not in it alone.   God is in charge.   You are part of a zillopede of his hands and feet.   Helping others will show our love but it also humbles us.  The task is greater than anyone can do.  But don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.

Pray, plan and then do.




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