Dear West Virginia Conference Friends,
The damage from the tornados that crossed several states recently has dominated our news, our hearts, and our prayers. My heart aches when I think about the trauma experienced by those who were in the candle factory, the Amazon warehouse, the families who sheltered in place as best they could as their homes were literally ripped apart around them. My heart aches for the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the storms.
I cannot imagine the pain of seeing homes, cars, belongings, pictures, items of great sentimental value, lost and/or destroyed in the winds. The feelings experienced by the victims are many and complicated – loss, pain, hope, anger, thanksgiving for life, for rescue even amid great loss, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, loneliness, fear, depression.
The questions are many: How? Why? Is there a God? Where is God? What do we do now? Where do we go? Does anyone really care about us? Will we get the help we need? Who can we trust? How can we possibly recover from this?
Amid the tragedy caused by the storms, people of faith have an opportunity to make a difference. The Church needs to see and to hear the real pain of the people and communities impacted by these storms and to be the incarnate, present body of Christ in response to what we see and hear.
As followers of Christ, we have an opportunity to interact with wounded people in ways wherein we can help them journey through the brokenness and trauma of life to bring healing hope. The disaster caused by the tornados and storms remind us that we are called to be agents of mercy in this world. We have each been given spiritual gifts to be used on behalf of others and it is beyond time to put those gifts to work. We need to help people heal from the trauma of the storms, from the trauma of the pandemic, from the trauma of the layered grief, loss, fear, and anxiety that is so much a part of our world today.
This world needs hope, the victims of the storms need hope. The world and its communities need to know that there is life after the storms! This is something the Church is equipped to give. We give it when we do acts of mercy, acts like stopping and seeing need and allowing our hearts to be so moved that we do something to attend to the identified need. Listening deeply for people’s pain is an important part of being empowered to act in merciful ways. When you can tune in to the real needs of actual people you are better enabled to prayerfully discern the ministry action that will provide the pathway for healing and hope.
When we stop to see and to listen, we can be hope bearers. If we see and listen to the pain of others, there will be opportunities to share how we have benefited from a relationship with Jesus Christ. To bring good news or hope filled news to wounded people means that we must stand ready and willing to share briefly what Christ has done for us and will do for others and be prepared to go more deeply into sharing if someone has a desire to know more. As people of the Good News of Christ, we need to be able to share why the news is good – especially in times of disaster, deep pain, loss, and trauma. Are you ready and prepared to do this?
People need people. People need to know there is a God of Great love. There is a God who sees, knows, and experiences our pain and the trauma of loss, a God who weeps with those who weep, a God who offers healing, a God who loves deeply, and a God who, through Christ, invites us to do the same. This is how the faith community, the Church, is called to respond to the victims of this disaster and all the brokenness of God’s people and creation.
May it be so!
Sandra Steiner Ball
Bishop West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) stops to see and to listen, and therein is empowered to prayerfully discern acts of mercy for persons and communities who suffer from natural or human-caused disasters. These acts of mercy aim to alleviate suffering and to be a source of help and hope for those left most vulnerable. UMCOR is on the ground now in the areas affected by the most recent tornados and storms.
While we may not be able to be part of a recovery team in these hard hit areas, we do have the opportunity to financially support the work of the teams and the giving of hope to the devastated communities by giving to donation funds is to give to your local church and write Advance #901670/UMCOR US Disaster Response in the memo. The local church will then remit the donations to the conference treasurer.
You may also follow the link to UMCOR to give directly to US Response 901670.