The areas affected most by Hurricane Harvey cross presbytery boundaries. Both Mission and New Covenant Presbyteries have churches, pastors and congregants that have been displaced, lost a business or otherwise affected. Each presbytery is still organizing their recovery efforts and will be joined this week by deployed PDA longer term volunteers. For now, if you want to help, check out the websites for updates and local information: http://www.pbyofnewcovenant.org and http://www.mission-presbytery.org . Needs change rapidly, so go directly to the source for new information. Please, have patience with presbytery and synod staff and volunteers – we’re all trying to find our next right steps forward.
I spent 4 days last week on the road with leaders of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), touring some of the areas and churches affected by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. I wanted to share with you some thoughts about my road trip.
People are resilient! That’s the good news. Like many things, resiliency has its own sense of timing. We might feel we’re making progress, only to take three steps back tomorrow. That’s okay. If you are one of those affected by this disaster, remember this: You are not alone and you are not forgotten! You continue to be on the hearts and in the prayers of your Sisters and Brothers from the Synod of the Sun.
Never discount the impact of having the entire contents of one’s home, furniture, carpet and even drywall, on the curb. It is overwhelming. Things are, well, things. Still we humans tend to put much significance on our “stuff”.
People really want to help. Many people really want to be the first to help, to help the best, or to make the biggest difference. There are no trophies for this, but seems that the idea of being a hero appeals to a lot of people. God bless ‘em. I am grateful to God that Presbyterians are more like the tortoise. Slow and steady endures the race, and we have the space to carry more on our backs along the way!
Recovery work for churches and presbyteries is not just about getting churches back up and worshiping. Recovery work is about re-building communities and getting people in their homes again. You’d be surprised by the number of people who don’t realize that this is our job, as Christians and human beings, to help others. It could be anything from cleaning up downed trees and handing out bottled water, to asking someone “How are you?” and listening to their story without comment. The funds you donate to PDA help to pay for things like: building restoration grants; volunteer villages that directly aide in rebuilding communities and families; retreats for burned out clergy; training in compassion fatigue; and the invaluable presence of people who have “been there, done that” in the midst of disaster. In my book, that’s priceless.
Like churches, disaster assistance agencies all have their niche. PDA has the advantage of knowing who does what and how presbyteries and churches can work with other organizations that can serve the most immediate needs in an honorable way. PDA is the non-anxious presence – the true meaning of “Out of Chaos, Hope”. Remaining calm in the midst of the calamity, rising tempers and people with the urgent need to control their situations and circumstances is one of their greatest strengths. We could all learn a lot from the folks at PDA: Find your lane and stick to it.
Speaking of lanes, did you know that: the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation will help those congregations affected with replacement hymnals? The Board of Pensions is offering one time Emergency Assistance Grants for any active church worker, whether or not they are a plan member? Other agencies may have similar resources to aide in recovery, check directly.
We thank God and pray for the congregants and clergy of these congregations; for the presbytery leaders seeking to bring the Presbyterian family in their part of God’s world together safely; for the staff and volunteers of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance; and for those who pray, give and volunteer for the re-building of the communities of south Texas. We do the same for the many in Florida who have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
The work is only just beginning my friends. Let us not lose hope, but instead help to carry the load. "In our common calling, we impact lives together"
Valerie Young Acting Synod Leader & Stated Clerk