Update on Harvey and Irma:
Week of Compassion partners are assessing the extensive damage in Cuba. We have set aside funds to support the coming appeal, once response plans are in place.
Power outages and flooding continue in Florida and along the southeast coast. Week of Compassion is working with regional leadership to assess the effects of Irma on our Disciples congregations. Reports of roof damage and flooding at homes and church buildings have already begun, and we anticipate many more as people are able to return from evacuation locations. Congregations across Florida and the southeast continue to offer shelter and assistance to their communities, with support from regional leadership.
Week of Compassion has an ongoing relationship with the Volusia Interfaiths/Agencies Networking in Disaster, where we are supporting long-term recovery from Hurricane Matthew. We have reached out to offer additional assistance for additional efforts responding to Irma.
In the last week, Week of Compassion has distributed over $100,000 in solidarity grants to households and churches through the Coastal Plains Area and Southwest Region. Additionally, our staff has provided information and pastoral support to Disciples congregations making significant impact in their local areas. Our congregations span the impact zone--from Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass, and Victoria in the west, to Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange in the east; from Galveston and Texas City in the south, to Conroe and Kingwood in the north. Disciples have distributed more than 1000 clean up buckets and have helped muck out dozens of houses. Congregations have collected school supplies, hosted meals, and offered prayer for and with their neighbors.
Together with Disciples Volunteering and local and regional leaders, Week of Compassion is planning for long-term recovery support and volunteer opportunities.
Hospitality - Reflection on a recent visit to Indonesia
Last month, a group of nine Disciples seminarians and recently ordained clergy participated in an immersion experience with Week of Compassion partners in Indonesia. Rev. Miriam Gentle of the Capital Region offered this reflection as part of a recent sermon.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus is our example for what welcoming the stranger means.Jesus entered humanity and became human. In the Incarnation, Jesus humbled himself, becoming vulnerable.
Even as he humbled himself, he invited others into a relational experience; strangers, Samaritans, women, tax collectors. He welcomed little children, who had no status in society, and placed them on his lap and proclaimed that to them belonged the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16)
Jesus even broke bread with the person who would eventually betray him.
God's welcome was extended to all.As scripture shows us, hospitality is about giving and receiving. It's about relationships and mutuality. Mutuality means that we need to welcome others, but we also need to be humble and vulnerable enough to allow others to welcome us.
I experienced a bit of this mutuality in my recent visit to Indonesia. I traveled with a group of seminarians and newly ordained clergy. We weren't there to do mission work, dig wells, or build schools. Our task was simply to observe the work that was being done by Week of Compassion, the Disciples' relief, refugee and sustainable-development mission fund, partnering with Church World Service working with food insecurity and disaster risk management.
As our group of ten traveled to remote villages, I felt like those early apostles, sent out two by two, traveling light, carrying God's love in our hearts, being welcomed by strangers.
On the island of West Timor, we traveled for hours up a winding mountain road. Breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean on one side. We drove until the cars could no longer travel up the mountain. Then we walked up a rocky hill. A bit winded and weary, I came upon a humble cement block building nestled among the trees. In contrast to the gray and dusty cement block building, brightly colored woven cloths woven by the women of the village, hung neatly in rows.
We climbed the steps and entered the building, their church. I was surprised to see the entire village had gathered to greet us. As we were ushered to the front, a place of honor, the children of the village began to sing. The words, in Indonesian were not ones I understood, but the tune, "Amazing Grace" gave me all I needed to translate. God's love is here and you are welcome in God's name. Salam! Welcome! Peace be unto you!
I felt humbled, honored, and loved. God was on that mountain. God was there in our midst. We were offered food to eat from what little they had. Fish, rice, bananas Even in scarcity, they welcomed us lavishing their food, their water, and their gifts of beautifully woven scarves, on us.
True hospitality is choosing to see another person as a child of God. When we enter into relationships with others, guided by respect, love, and mutuality, we begin to unfold God's kingdom on earth and live into our calling of "doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly" with God and all creation.
We keep checking with our friends in the Southwest Region on how they are bouncing back from Hurricane Harvey. The reports indicate lots of efforts and holy thoughts on the nature of God’s resilient people.
Nora and I will be heading to Texas when the mission stations open. Hope some of you can make the journey with us.
Sadly, as the water has barely receded in Texas, as category 5 storm is heading toward our friends in Florida. 17 churches dot the Florida Region from north to south, and a couple, like the West Palm Beach church, look to be right in the thick of all the target maps.
I spent some time on their website and witnessed their energetic pastor inviting folks to know and love Jesus. His genuine honesty and love for people is very evident. Although I’ve never met Pastor Donn Brammer, I can see he is a passionate man that will do whatever it takes to help his friends and neighbors in the West Palm Beach area when the storm(s) have come and gone and one their damage.
I paused in prayer for Pastor Donn and the long road of recovery for the people of South Florida even before I know what will happen.
This I do know, I’m already planning my mission trips for 2018.
Looks like we may be on the road for a long stretch.
God is Good. My hands and heart still work. I offer prayers with these hands and will offer more when the call goes out.
Interim Pastor Neil W. Allen
Pastor Neil Allen
I am blessed to serve as the pastor of Queen Anne Christian Church, an amazing community of wise and thoughtful people.