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Disaster aftermath: Finding the road to recovery and healing


Watching the destruction of Katrina, broken levees in New Orleans and Rita for days has been oppressive, but nothing for me compared to those families who lost friends and loved ones,homes, all their belongings.

Raging floods,destroyed trees, shattered houses, collapsed bridges, wasted cities have left indelible memories on our hearts and minds, but we can turn off the TV and stop reading the news reports. Those who were caught in the destruction, however,cannot escape from their experience. They must travel the long road to recovery.

For days now I have been reading the stories of people who have been relocated into “foreign”communities. Most are amazed by the gracious hospitality of their new neighbors. All know it will be a long time before they are back to normal.

The cost of recovery is staggering. Estimates have ranged from $150 to $200 billion. The time it is taking to clean up continues to increase. Many sites look as wasted as they did the days after the storms. The wear and tear on families shows on their faces

Coming to grips with destruction is always a long, difficult process. Whether it is the loss of our home or of a family member, people are devastated by loss. Emily Dickinson says, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” After Job’s great loss, he and his friends sit in total silence for seven full days. When David’s son was dying, he prayed and fasted even though he knew that death was inevitable. AsJesus hung on the cross, the sun was darkened.

Destruction comes in many forms—a mysterious illness of my child, a serious injury to a volunteer working in the wake of a hurricane, the birth of a Down syndrome child, a stroke in a vigorous parent, the failure of a fledgling business, the discovery that a teen-age child is addicted to a street drug. Every life has known such trauma, and most live in fear of such a devastating loss.

What has beenimpressive about the disaster in the Gulf Coast region is the rapidresponse of churches around the nation. Even if there is concern aboutgovernment’s response, we all must celebrate the way that churches have sentmoney, food, clothing, workers to help victims.

And churches aregrowing in their realization that recovery is a constant need among us. Grief,care for aging parents, alcoholism, gambling addictions, pornography addiction,sexual addiction, depression, family conflict — on and on goes the problemsfacing a church that realizes that “not telling” is a dangerous avoidance

It thrills me to seemore and more churches telling about their programs to aid individuals andfamilies in recovery. We are recognizing that having an alcoholic come forwardat the end of a service to confess sins is a giant step. But that step can beuseful only if a church has the compassion to accept and love the person. Thenthe person needs regular encouragement and support to work through the years ofrecovery. We cannot look down on such a brother or sister, but we must see thatperson with the eyes of Jesus who loves the greatest sinner.

I know that manyproblems require professional counseling. I can grieve with those who aregrieving. I can give moral support to a family caring for aged parents becauseI have been down that road.

But even in thissituation the family can benefit from professional advice and counsel. I cancall, go to lunch with the family, send cards — but nothing is more importantthan my intentional, systematic prayer for the family, specific prayers aboutdecisions, medical treatment, family morale and all the winding paths they musttravel.

As churches, we aretolerant of some sins, but harsh about others. We tolerate womanizers, buthomosexuality is totally unacceptable. We teach Christ in prison, but cringeonce a convert attends worship with us.

We must grow incompassion for all sinners. If our mission is to seek and save the lost, howmuch more should we be concerned about saving brothers and sisters who areplagued by sins of the flesh?

We all know thelanguage: hate the sin, love the sinner. But we need help and encouragement toknow how to show love where we have fear and deep resentment.

Jesus told the crowdsthat the physician was not needed by the well, but by the sick. Sinners needthe healing care of Jesus, and we must represent Jesus in the lives of thosewho are caught in the snares of their own sinful desire. We who are transformedmust give loving care to one who needs help.

Even as the Gulf Coastdestruction takes monumental efforts to bring back order and normalcy, thepersonal losses we suffer will take time for recovery. This will take ourefforts and the efforts of faithful people.

Pray that the churchin the 21st century will seek to serve like Jesus, demonstrating the humilityand commitment to help brothers and sisters achieve comfort and healing.

Filed under: National

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