Maybe one of the biggest stories of the year thus far came in the form of a single image. It needed no context. The content of the picture was so deplorable, so heartbreaking, that everyone with a sense of right and wrong was mortified by its very existence.
Proof That Things Are Not Right
The image of a young boy, bloodied and dusty, feet barely hanging over the edge of a bright orange seat in the back of an ambulance quickly made its way around the world. Omran Daqneesh captured the collective heart of nations and embodied the reality of the war in Aleppo. He became a catalyst for both international outrage and a social media outcry insisting that something be done to alleviate such horrific suffering.
Unsure of the fate of Omran’s family, parents the world over pondered the same question: “How can I bring him home?” A collective gasp could be heard as his dark, listless eyes stared back through screens around the world. And everyone knew something must be done to right this insufferable wrong.
The same is true with every disaster, every attack, and every breaking news story that involves human suffering. Someone, somewhere, sits fighting back the tears, asking why, and wondering aloud how to help. Thank God that is true. It reminds us that we are created in God’s image, and therefore, this sort of brokenness and suffering is intolerable. It demands response.
“We are created in God’s image, and therefore, this sort of brokenness and suffering is intolerable.”
The most recent catalyst for such a response came in the form of a hurricane that achieved Category 5 status, Hurricane Matthew. It created a trail of damage stretching from the Caribbean, up the East Coast of the United States, and into North Carolina before turning back out to sea.
Haiti was by far the worst victim of the storm with massive physical damage and extensive loss of life. All of this occurred at a time when Haitians were still reeling from a devastating earthquake several years prior. The sense of injustice deepened the world’s concern for Haiti. That this could occur while the country was already hurting simply made no sense.
Parts of Cuba also experienced substantial loss. Everywhere it traversed, Hurricane Matthew left its mark, from physical destruction to terrible loss of life. In the wake of the storm, Christians are asking, “What now? What can we do to help?”
Prayer—It’s Not Just Anecdotal
First and foremost, we can pray. Unfortunately, in many cases, prayer is not an acceptable answer for those who are asking these questions. Prayer is often considered less an active, Sprit-empowered engagement in spiritual warfare and more a simple comfort offered by a friend in time of need. Sort of a Hallmark®-ey, “I’m sorry you’re having a rough time. Here’s this wonderful bouquet of prayers to help you feel better.”
But these are not the powerful types of prayers offered by the early church on behalf of an imprisoned Peter (Acts 12:5ff). They are not the expectant prayers of Paul, knowing that the God who comforted one in suffering could also comfort another (2 Cor. 1:3–7). They are certainly not the powerful prayers that Jesus modeled—prayers that engendered a strengthening visit from angels and drew blood from his sweat glands (Luke 22:39–44).
John Piper wrote in Let the Nations Be Glad!: “Prayer is primarily a war-time walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den” (41).
“The best way one may act in response to any disaster is to invoke the mighty hand of God to move in ways that we cannot.”
Oh, that we would pray this way for Haiti and Cuba and Aleppo and all of those affected by disastrous circumstances. That we would pray with an understanding that the gospel offers the only viable, eternal response to suffering and loss and destruction. This type of response does not exclude other activity, such as disaster relief, but it invokes one far greater than we can muster of our own accord. The best way one may act in response to any disaster is to invoke the mighty hand of God to move in ways that we cannot.
All of that considered, other ways to serve hurting people in the wake of Hurricane Matthew do exist and ought to be considered. Baptist Global Response is focusing its current efforts on Cuba. They already have trained boots on the ground, including people who understand the people, culture, and language of the affected areas. For the time being, they are asking that instead of people trying to make individual trips to the area, they use those same funds to undergird the work of the people who are already on the ground. Visit their site for more information or follow them on Twitter.
If you’d like more information on how to help with international response, please visit the Baptist Global Response website. You also can check out the efforts of Send Relief as they work in the areas most deeply affected within the United States. You can visit their site or follow them on Twitter.
Otherwise, please pray. Pray with the fervency, expectation, and power common to Christ and his church. You can also follow along with IMB prayer requests.