I am pleased to offer this brief but worthwhile Hurricane Harvey-related commentary by my esteemed predecessor as Director of LCMS Disaster Response, the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, now retired in Arlington, Texas.
The Rev. Dr. Ross E. Johnson
Director, LCMS Disaster Response
As the tragedy continues to unfold across the Texas Gulf Coast and into parts of Louisiana, I am once again amazed at the generosity and compassion shown by people throughout the United States.
So many want to help in so many ways, and this is especially true of our own LCMS members. Their desire to lend a helping hand brings back memories of the outpouring of care and concern shown during and after Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy and many other disasters over the past decade.
Nowhere and at no time are God’s people more at the forefront of compassionate generosity than when a disaster strikes. The destruction and despair wrought by Hurricane Harvey can never match the outpouring of charity and love shown by God’s people to those in need.
The desire to help here in Texas (I live in Arlington) has been amply demonstrated by countless people from around the nation freely giving of themselves and their resources to aid those in need.
Now, as the rescue phase begins to move into the relief and recovery phases, I am reminded how important it is to make the wisest use of the resources at our disposal.
The members of the LCMS always have risen to the occasion to meet physical and spiritual needs in the wake of disasters. Motivated by the love of God found in Christ Jesus, we want to help with our time, talent and treasure. We are a generous and compassionate people seeking to provide meaningful and useful aid and assistance as quickly as possible.
A coordinated and collective response, like the one facilitated by the LCMS and its Disaster Response program, is a sure way to channel resources and efforts to the right people at the right time in the right place.
Nobody does this better on your behalf than LCMS Disaster Response when it comes to coordinating volunteers or accounting for donations or demonstrating Christ’s mercy in action to hurting people.
Christ’s mercy is best shown when we are good stewards of all that God has given us as we reach out to others. The members of the LCMS are “generous to a tee” and compassionate “without let or hindrance.” We have freely received; therefore, we freely give both of the Gospel and of our earthly gifts.
To that end, and in the interest of good stewardship, I have watched once again with sadness as good, well-meaning people give everything from old clothes to used furniture to unpalatable food in their earnest desire to help those in need.
As a veteran of more than 200 disaster responses, I have seen the results of such unplanned giving, and I am reminded of a few helpful hints provided by FEMA in a little tract titled “When Disaster Strikes…”
Here is a brief summary of the tract that might help guide your personal response to the needs of the survivors of Hurricane Harvey at this time:
1. Financial contributions are often the best kind of donation to make.
2. Used clothing is rarely a useful item to collect for disaster relief.
3. One should confirm what is needed before taking action.
4. One should donate through a registered organization.
5. Transportation must be planned in advance.
6. Donated goods must be well packed and labeled.
7. Volunteers are encouraged to affiliate with a voluntary organization involved in disaster response and recovery.
LCMS Disaster Response, under the aegis of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, is poised and positioned to facilitate a coordinated and collective response with your help and on your behalf.
I am confident that, together, the people of the LCMS once again will rise to the occasion by meeting needs in the best possible ways and by sharing God’s mercy in word and deed.
Rev. Glenn F. Merritt
Former Director (Ret.)
LCMS Disaster Response