As we witnessed the tornado ravaged community of Moore, Oklahoma, the scenes of devastation moved us with a desire to help.
As someone who has been involved with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (the third largest disaster relief entity in the world, right behind the American Red Cross and Salvation Army), and as one who has served in disaster responses personally, let me share a few key thoughts to help you respond in the right way:
- In most cases, the best way to help is through monetary donations. Cash donations are able to meet specific needs of those hurting, assist in long-term recovery efforts, and stimulate the local economy in the affected area. I know many people who feel as if giving money is not personal; but, helping should be about meeting the victims’ needs, and not fulfilling our desire to feel good about ourselves.
- You should seek to give through established, reputable relief agencies. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief are recognized in the disaster relief world as leading and effective disaster organizations that handle donations with great integrity. One hundred percent of monies given to disaster responses through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief go to meet needs and offer direct ministry to disaster victims. Staff and administration are provided by gifts to the Cooperative Program and do not have to be subtracted from donations for disaster responses.
- Be cautious in loading a trailer full of supplies, unless you are connected with someone on the ground and meeting a specific request. Often, disaster areas are flooded with unneeded and unwanted supplies. The three most common unwanted supplies are used clothing, toys, and bottled water. A disaster leader in Moore shared with me that they had enough bottled water to fill every lake in Oklahoma. Though well-intentioned, unwanted supplies create storage issues and often will result in money given for disaster victims being utilized in disposing of these unwanted resources. Before collecting items, a church or individual should always make contact with someone on the ground and be sure that the item is needed and wanted. It really helps no one to barrage disaster areas with “stuff” that winds up being added to debris piles. When it comes to disaster relief, do not follow your own desires, follow the direction of disaster leaders who are engaged in the affected community. Remember, it is not about you, it should be about what is best for those who are hurting.
- An important way we can come alongside those who are suffering is to pray. We serve an all-powerful God who can always do more than you and I to alleviate suffering. We need to lift those who are hurting to God’s throne of grace.
- Give your gifts quietly and let the Lord receive all the credit. When we give, we often like folks to see our offering, but this kind of sharing seeks to honor ourselves, rather than bring glory to our Lord. Jesus said, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3).
It is right to be moved with compassion, do good things, and give graciously. Just don’t make it about you. Give for the sake of those hurting and for the glory of our Lord.