As I write this, it has been four months since the South Asia tsunami hit countries surrounding the Indian Ocean.
For many weeks, the disaster headlined the evening news. We heard the stories of incredible suffering by people whose names and faces were new to us. We identified with their pain and we interceded with the Lord on their behalf. The tsunami was truly a tragedy of unimaginable proportions.
But the response by Christian Reformed churches and members throughout North America to this tragedy was wonderful to behold. Within days, God’s people in Canada contributed $3.5 million, meeting the deadline set by the Canadian government for matching contributions made to approved charities, including the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). After an audit by the government, CRWRC received an additional $3.5 million in federal funds to assist in its tsunami relief work.
Add to that total nearly $3 million contributed by CRC congregations and individuals in the United States, and you get a sense of the magnitude of the response from CRC members across North America.
It is a remarkable testimony that one of our own agencies received this type of government recognition, all the more so because we are a relatively small denomination and CRWRC is not as well known as many larger relief agencies. It makes us proud that the government recognized CRWRC’s effectiveness and stewardly administration.
I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to see that effectiveness and stewardship up close in various parts of the world. The staff are devout and dedicated people who desire to serve the cause of God’s kingdom.
It is no small thing to be used by the Lord to minister to the poor, the disenfranchised, and to those who suffer the calamities of a natural disaster. CRWRC’s ministry is not, however, primarily about responding to disasters, important as that is. Responding to disaster is usually a short-term effort. Changing lives and building communities takes longer.
Disaster relief opens doors for longer-term development. Ministering to people is about building relationships, developing a life together, teaching and learning new skills. “It is in giving that we receive,” and it is in relating that we have the opportunity to talk not only about food for tomorrow, but also about “the bread of life.” Our ministries all are about proclaiming the dominion of Jesus Christ and the joys of life in him.
The staff of CRWRC has been exceptionally challenged in recent times to respond to events in many parts of the globe, including right here in North America. Volunteers and staff alike have shown the heart of the church in numerous ways. At its recent meeting, the denomination’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution of appreciation of CRWRC’s work as an encouragement to “not become weary in well-doing.”
Please pray for all those who live in constant need, and also for those who live and witness and learn with them. That is, after all, the heart of the gospel message until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).