Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have left unprecedented destruction in their aftermath, displacing hundreds of thousands of families. After flying over the region, walking through the endless mud and debris, and meeting with survivors, the widespread devastation and heartbreak were among the worst I’ve seen.
In the midst of this distress, the Church of Jesus Christ is shining its light. Local congregations whose facilities were swept away still hosted emergency workers and served their neighbors. Denominations mobilized church networks to resettle families across the country. Christian families and businesses not only gave generously but opened their hearts and doors to welcome the displaced families.
Red tape didn’t stop the Body of Christ. Churches and Christians simply followed the example of the Good Samaritan’s ministry to the hurting man in the ditch: “And when he saw him, he had compassion on him” (Luke 10:33, KJV). By demonstrating compassion in the midst of disaster, churches have gained credibility, influence and trust.
According to some surveys, half of the people displaced by Katrina don’t want to go back to where they used to live. They want to start anew. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring a spiritual beginning: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).
Christians have met the first wave of the challenge. The physical emergency is over. We need to be just as dedicated to loving and discipling the people God has brought into the arms of the churches.
At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are already seeing this happen. Chaplains with our Rapid Response Team have prayed with thousands of survivors from Houston to Charlotte and led hundreds to faith in Jesus Christ. Churches preparing for our upcoming Festivals in Shreveport, La., and Mobile, Ala., have united in hurricane relief ministries that have already reached multitudes.
As families and communities rebuild, we want to see them established on the high ground and unshakable foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, placing their trust in God alone. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both secure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19, NKJV).