During the last several weeks, the news has been full of stories about floods and Hurricane Matthew. As you already know, Janet and I just got back from the Greenbrier where we saw the aftermath of the damage done by flooding in the Greenbrier Valley earlier this summer and it was the first time that we were up close and personal – observing first hand the devastation that happened on the eastern edge of West Virginia.
We couldn’t believe the number of people who ran for their lives with the clothes on their backs, turning around to see their homes obliterated by the advancing walls of water. They are now homeless, staying with friends and relatives until the homes in Hope Village, a new development funded by donors to replace homes that were lost, on a summit in White Sulphur Springs, is ready for occupancy. These homes will be occupied by those who lost their own residences and, to a large extent, are being donated by the community. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Hurricane Matthew, while sparing parts of southern Florida, did extensive damage further up the Florida coast and the Carolinas as well as parts of Georgia. Places like Hilton Head Island were hit particularly hard and it is unknown when residents will be able to return to their homes. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of these residents will find out they are “homeless.”
The situation in Haiti is much worse. Once again, similar to a hurricane that hit a number of years ago, thousands of people were injured or killed and once again, homelessness is a huge problem. And in the scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago that New Orleans was almost destroyed by hurricane force winds and rain – something that took years to recover from. Many folks were displaced from their homes – and many thousands of properties destroyed. I know a number of folks who had to move to different cities and restart their lives in different states. Only in the past several years have they been able to return to New Orleans. And then… the issues of the recent past.
Then, closer to home here in Indianapolis, we have a problem with homelessness in the inner city as well. People camp along the White River and sleep under bridges and in tunnels. While we may even say that summer isn’t too bad, this time of year and into the winter gets very cold and becomes extremely dangerous. While most folks truly wish they had some place to live, there are those who have been on the street so long it has become second nature to them. I can’t even imagine that…
The verse for this evening highlights God’s perspective on helping those in need. In the book of Genesis, Moses tells the story of the Cain killing Abel. In Genesis 4:9, God speaks out and says, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course, God goes on to advise Cain that his brother’s blood is crying out to Him from the ground.
I think we can infer from God’s question that, in a word, “Yes” – we are to be our brother’s keeper. And I don’t think that has changed since Genesis. Jesus was also emphatic that we are to take care of those who are suffering and we are to bear their burdens. My encouragement this evening is that God wants all of us to live in harmony and to take care of one another. Unfortunately, we don’t always see the best of humanity. My prayer is that we will all act with unusual grace to help serve those who have lost their homes and are suffering in so many other ways. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…