by VC Edwards
In recent years, major catastrophes have affected communities of all people, from extreme weather conditions to tragic accidents. Adverse weather conditions have hit areas all across our country, from drought and flooding on the west coast, to hurricanes and tornadoes in the mid-west and the east coast. Too often, black churches focus on disasters in black communities; and when they do perform missions afar, it’s usually in Africa. However, black churches would do good to reach out to white churches and white communities when disaster or tragedy hits their communities. If black Christians took opportunity to show up and help white Americans, when they are in need, whites would get to personally engage with black Christians, and not be so quick to rely on negative depictions of blacks, as seen on television and the movies, when referring to black lives. Ministry needs to start with helping our neighbors, right here. So, ministries need to be prepared to send two or three busloads of members with supplies to areas in America they would not otherwise travel to.
Pray for change. America has a problem of racism, partly because of extreme stereotypes that have been perpetuated by the media. Before going on a mission for Christ, our first agenda is to pray for a good outcome. Pray for God to lead you to fellow churches that will introduce you to their community and welcome your help. Don’t go anywhere where you are not welcomed; you don’t want racial tensions to take form, in a time of crisis. It’s essential to find out what is needed by the community, before you begin your journey, in order to be effective in your ministry to serve others.
Show up. Don’t just send money. Show up to be extra hands to remove debris, to minister to the victims, and provide water, food, clothes, Christian literature, etc. Show up, so that you can interact with whites and show them that you care about them. Victims don’t see the faces behind money sent. And if they only see whites (and a handful of blacks), they will do know blacks feel their pain and share their grief in their time of loss and disaster. It is time for black Christians to show up!
Show godly love. When you show up, make sure you focus on those in need, by being sensitive to their wants. Don’t offer them your favorite ethnic foods; find out what they eat. Don’t come blasting your music (even if it is Gospel) and clapping and dancing. During crisis, be especially sensitive to those you want to help and wear a spirit of peace to conform with those in the environment. When you are helping others, particularly of another culture, it’s not about you (and about standing out)—it’s about the people you are helping. You cannot take control of their situation; let them tell you what they want you to do. After a weather disaster, don’t take it upon yourself to go through personal belongings, even if they are outdoors and have been damaged by weather, unless the victims want that help. Going through someone’s personal belongings can feel like a personal violation, for victims; so, you want to show extreme sensitivity to their desires. What people need is reassurance that everything will be okay.
Prepare to Help. Don’t burden those you go to help with your needs. Bring everything you need to survive in catastrophic conditions. Don’t expect anyone to feed you or “put you up” for the night. Let a proper church committee assess the needs of the victims and plan thoroughly what the church needs to bring to the community. If possible, partner with other churches that have had prior experience assisting in extreme disaster relief.
Bring a team of church members who are prepared and able to survive and help in extreme conditions. You don’t want people with you who see your mission as a vacation; they will be useless and counterproductive to your efforts.
Share Christ. Stop being intimidated to show the love of Christ, by those who live by racist ideologies. Let your light shine for Christ! Remember, that when people go through a crisis, there are many who are not Christians, so you have an obligation to give them encouragement, by sharing Christ with those who are devastated. For more information, to guide others to Christ, read “How to Hear God to Prosper,” at RealTalkInChrist.com.
Your work is not in vain. Stop letting hip hop rappers, secular singers and ungodly actors represent your race—instead, let the world know that there are blacks who live for Christ and live sensible lives according to His principles of love and compassion. Know that every time you make an effort to converse with whites, as a Christian you dispel the notion that all blacks behave like those in the blasphemous world of hip hop that they see on television.
No one hopes for tragedy, in any community, but if anyone needs help, we as Christians, need to be ready and willing to meet the needs of others, regardless of color. It’s not slavery if a black helps a white in a time of need; it’s called compassion which God calls all His followers to demonstrate. So, don’t be concerned if non-believers, blacks or whites, don’t understand your agenda.
Don’t let the enemy of hate cause you to assume that whites don’t want your help. People, who may not want your help under normal conditions, may be most grateful in times of catastrophe. Extend the help and let God work the miracles of unity. It’s time we look pass color and carry out our mission for Christ to people of all colors. And, hopefully churches will one day be church, not white or black.
What are other situations in which black Christians can unite with whites to reduce racial tensions and advance the cause of Christ?
©VC Edwards 2015