'Open wide your hearts'Recent disasters cry out for our response

open arms 2016 ac logoRecent disasters cry out for our response

News reports of horrific earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan (along with historic flooding in Houston) rivet our attention to the scenes of destruction and desperation filling our TV screens. But when those stories quickly end we are once again overwhelmed by the constant barrage of overwrought, repetitive reports, commentary and dialogues on our U.S. presidential election primaries and campaigns.

Our growing preoccupation with the approaching 2016 General Conference reflects the same overwhelming focus on bureaucratic and political affairs of life and law. They are important no doubt, but hardly matters of life-or-death.

United Nations News photoYet, thrust into our faces and our consciousness, tugging on our hearts, even provoking grimaces and tears from many of us, are these real life-or-death struggles, where real forces of nature wreak unprecedented havoc on whole neighborhoods, burying homes, schools, businesses, the very foundations of communities, and burying memories, hopes, dreams and yes, precious lives beneath earthquake rubble and surging waters.

If we–all of us–can manage to turn our attention away from all the political chatter for a day or longer and from all other mundane matters that aren’t about life-or-death struggles, perhaps we can turn our thoughts, our conversations, our prayers and even our actions toward the profound human suffering and need happening in the wake of these recent disasters (and with more disasters sure to come).

Rather than just shake our heads, skim headlines looking for the latest death tolls, feel the pangs of momentary sadness, or utter a quick prayer of “God bless those poor people,” maybe we could do more.  Maybe we could just sit for more than a moment, take these tragic misfortunes into our minds, feel our hearts move, say a real life-or-death prayer that yearns for life and seek ways to respond now. Right now.

In our worship services, Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, church meetings, ministry activities, fellowship gatherings or even conversations among friends and fellow disciples, maybe we can hold hands, bow or lift our heads, offer our troubled hearts up to God, and say long, patient, beseeching prayers that the God who creates earth and sky, who moves wind and water, and whose Holy Spirit moves among His people will move many more hearts to respond.

Pray that God will continue to energize and mobilize helping hands and feet to rescue the perishing, will continue to send forth miracles of recovery and healing, and will continue to instill undaunted hope for the triumph of life over death among all who suffer and all who seek to help.

And after we pray, let us be the answer to others’ desperate prayers for help. Let us give whatever we can, when and wherever we can to support relief efforts and eventual rehabilitation efforts. To save lives. Let us “open wide our hearts” and give as generously as we receive the love of Christ.

By John W. Coleman, Eastern PA Conference Communications Director

Read the UMNS story about the immediate appeal from Bishop Silvio Cevallos of the Evangelical United Methodist Church of Ecuador that people “continue to hold our country in prayer.”