Natural Disaster

Kim Lawton 08-19-2016

Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc prays with volunteers in Baton Rouge. Photo credit: PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

In a northern Baton Rouge suburb last weekend, Jared Stockstill watched with alarm as the floodwaters rose on his street.

Then he started hearing that rescue workers weren’t able to reach everyone who needed help. Stockstill is the administrator of Bethany Church, a nondenominational megachurch with five campuses in the Baton Rouge area.

A resident transfers his belongings into a boat after being rescued in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, on Aug. 15. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman 

Thinking of jumping in your car and driving to Louisiana to help those affected by the flood? Wondering how you could mail some food or hand-me-down clothes to help? If you answered yes — don’t do it.

Yet, that is.

Image via Julia Carrion/World Vision/RNS

Emergency teams from U.S. faith-based humanitarian relief agencies are on the ground in northwest Ecuador after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of at least 413 people. The April 16 quake destroyed more than 300 buildings, buckling overpasses and trapping drivers. More than 2,500 people were injured.

Padmapukur, Banglasdesh. © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos, 2009.

Padmapukur, Banglasdesh. © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos, 2009.

“Humanity is intimately tied to the world we live in, and every societal action and technological advance has an effect on the earth,” reads one of the plaques in the current Unintended Journeys exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C.

The temporary exhibit, which runs until Aug. 13, is a powerful photographic portrait of the catastrophic effects environmental disasters are having on millions of people around the world.

The exhibit focuses on five different countries that have recently experienced or continue to experience severe weather conditions that have caused displacement, migration, intense hardship, and death for inhabitants. The disasters covered are the Hurricane in the Gulf, the Earthquake in Haiti, the Tsunami in JapanFlooding in Bangladesh, and Desertification in East Africa.

Adam Ericksen 05-22-2013
John Piper's Tweet

John Piper's Tweet

Many of my liberal friends never call themselves “Christians.” Their hesitancy is usually a reaction against conservative Christians who, let’s face it, are an embarrassment to the name. You know what I’m talking about – those who make crazy claims like natural disasters occur because God is angry at homosexuals. And then there are those who use phrases like, “legitimate rape.

Influential pastor John Piper provides the latest example. While most of my friends on Facebook and Twitter lamented the devastation wrought by the Oklahoma City tornado, Piper decided to show off his biblical acumen with this tweet:

"Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead." -Job 1:19

Piper’s tweet is a bit ambiguous. His reference to Job doesn’t say that God caused the tornado, but Piper has historically claimed that God causes these types of disasters. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time Piper has tweeted something so theologically insensitive. A few years ago Piper claimed God caused a tornado in Minnesota because God was angry at homosexuals. Piper’s god is a fickle Cosmic Jerk.

Eric Barreto 05-21-2013
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Debris covers the ground after a powerful tornado ripped Moore, Okla., on May 20. Brett Deering/Getty Images

“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” And from those heavens descended a deadly cloud.

“Out of the mouths of babes and infants ...” The children of Plaza Towers Elementary?

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Indeed that is the question that troubles the heart of the faithful in times like these.

Can we still praise God? If so, how do we start? Can we possibly understand what happened in Moore, Okla.?

Don’t trust anyone who claims to comprehend the meaning of this storm. Don’t trust anyone who points with absolute certainty to a single cause for this storm. Don’t trust anyone who treats a tornado as anything but indiscriminate and cruel. These tragedies are not punishments or object lessons. Such natural forces do not reach their conclusion with a pat moral or a simple “they lived happily ever after.”

QR Blog Editor 05-20-2013
NBC News report of Oklahoma tornado damage

NBC News report of Oklahoma tornado damage

A massive tornado swept through the town of Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon, destroying homes and hitting two elementary schools. Emergency crews were rushing to the scenes to rescue staff and students trapped in the debris. One MSNBC report indicated at least 75 children and staff were trapped in one of the schools. From MSNBC

Two elementary schools were heavily damaged, possibly completely destroyed, KFOR reported. Those schools are Briarwood Elementary in Oklahoma City and Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore.

It was unknown how many children may have been in the schools when the twister hit, but a KFOR reporter saw a student being rescued from Plaza Towers, where the roof was blown off and the cinderblock walls demolished.

Read more HERE.

Jim Wallis 05-02-2013
Church in Massapequa, N.Y. offers help. Photo courtesy of Mike DuBose.

Church in Massapequa, N.Y. offers help. Photo courtesy of Mike DuBose.

This week marked six months since Superstorm Sandy left entire communities devastated, families homeless, and many with little hope. But in the midst of this natural disaster, many banded together. As is true with many of our nation's tragedies, recent and throughout our history, communities form and hope emerges amid struggle. Sandy taught us about resilience. It showed us what it truly means to reach out, serve, and love our neighbor. 

One young filmmaker in New York, Farihah Zaman, caught that resilience and acts of service on video. Here, she shows us how tragedy can turn into a joint effort to acheive the common good. 

Sheldon Good 01-12-2012
Port-au-Prince church post-earthquake. Photo by Colin Crowley via Wylio http://w

Port-au-Prince church post-earthquake. Photo by Colin Crowley via Wylio

How does one dig out from under such tragedy? How does one have hope for a better life, for a new Haiti?

In a meditation titled "The Gates of Hope," Minister Victoria Safford writes:

"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope -- not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness ... nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of 'Everything is gonna be all right,' but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."

Indeed, we need to plant ourselves at the gates of hope and work toward a just peace, on Earth as it is in heaven.

Rose Marie Berger 08-24-2011

I want to beat televangelist Pat Robertson to the jump on yesterday's East Coast earthquake.

Robertson is genius at knowing the mind of God when it comes to natural disasters. He blamed the Haiti earthquake on a God-offending "pact with the devil." Hurricane Katrina was God's pay-back for abortion in America.

Having spent some time with the Lord recently, I feel there is a message for President Obama: It is God's wrath that shook the White House yesterday. This was a 5.8 wake-up call.

Why is God all wrought up this time? What is it that God wants President Obama to do? Well, my friends, the issue is climate change. Global warming. Specifically, the Keystone XL "Dirty Oil" pipeline.

Ryan Beiler 06-29-2011

We met 10-year-old Noor Al-Abid in November during our first visit to Gaza.

Jacqueline Klamer 05-24-2011
In the largest conference room in Haiti, deals were made, contact information swapped, and the air buzzed with excitement at a business fair hosted by Partners Worldwide and a dozen sponsors target
Allison Johnson 05-24-2011
It's rare that an urban area is struck by a tornado.
Patty Whitney 04-18-2011
For three months last year the Gulf Coast oil spill was the major topic of news reports all over the world. From the explosion on April 20, 2010, until the capping of the gushing well on July 15, 2010, the headlines were consumed with images and dialogue about the tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. Shortly after the news of the capping, the government reported that “most” of the oil was gone, and that things were getting back to normal. The camera crews packed up. The reporters turned in their hotel room keys and gathered their deductible tax receipts. And they all left. Kumbaya, the oil was gone, and the world was normal again. The world could move on to other, more pressing interests. That is … the rest of the world could move on to other, more pressing interests.
Jim Wallis 03-17-2011
Once again, we are seeing human and environmental tragedy. In Japan, a natural disaster has destroyed all human attempts for control.
Duane Shank 01-03-2011
Every day as I review the news, I'm conscious of stories relating to religious faith.
Leslie G. Woods 08-27-2010

I arrived in the faith-based advocacy community in Washington, D.C. fresh out of divinity school.

Rose Marie Berger 03-01-2010

Editor’s Note: Edwidge Danticat, author of six books including

Kent Annan 03-01-2010
After Hurricane Jeanne struck Haiti in 2004, people gave abundantly from what little they had.
Neeraj Mehta 01-25-2010
Last week my wife and I had the grand opportunity to leave our two kids in the care of her parents and spend five days on vacation in California.