International (MNN) – The saying goes ‘trouble comes in threes’.
That’s certainly been true for Asia this week. Mark Lewis heads up the Disaster Response area for Reach Global, the humanitarian response wing of the Evangelical Free Church of America. “We were monitoring the news reports and we were in touch with partners before that event hit, and then the other typhoon that whipped up in Japan. We have ongoing work in the Tokyo area as well as the continued response to the tsunami in the Tohoku region. Then, on top of that, this earthquake that hit in the Philippines, near Cebu, which is the centers for our partners there as well.”
Cyclone Phailin battered the heavily populated eastern coast of India with torrential rain and terrifying winds on Oct 12. Damages were extensive, and now the second crisis has begun with exposure, water borne disease and lack of food.
Five days later, Oct 17, residents in the Cebu region of the Philippines were jolted awake by a quake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. The death toll had climbed to 144 as rescuers combed the rubble for survivors for days.
Meanwhile, Japan has battened down the hatches as Typhoon Francisco skirted west of Guam on Friday following the same path as Typhoon Wipha, which killed 17 people in Japan this week.
Most of the local partners are trying to assess damage and form some kind of response plan. Lewis explains, “By God’s grace, the local churches that we have that are in those areas have been largely unaffected. They would just be looking at mounting local responses out of local resources.”
The Non -Government Organizations will already be sending aid, to bolster the governments’ response. They’ll handle the immediate survival crisis and even the secondary. However, the unseen trauma is where believers shine. “Where there is a crisis, there comes this openness to the Gospel, a mission field of sorts, as people struggle with trying to answer the unanswerable questions like ‘why’ and ‘what’s next’?” Survivors need hope. Some are trying to recover from earlier disasters. Some are looking at the loss of loved ones, homes and possessions. Having hope is critical to recovery.
Already hard-pressed with resources, Reach Global has responded to most of the major crisis since long before Hurricane Katrina struck. Knowing how to mobilize people and resources is just part of what they do. Can they keep up with what’s coming now? It’s a stretch, acknowledges Lewis, but, “God has never left us short. It’s through Him raising up workers for ‘such a time as this’.”
Some people who are reading this are already wondering if this story is a thinly-veiled fundraising request. Funds never hurt. However, Lewis says the answer to ‘trouble comes in threes’ also comes in threes: pray, give or go. We’ve already covered going and funds are the obvious point. Less obvious is “Prayer for the local churches that are in these areas that are able to respond with that incarnational Gospel; being the hands and feet of Christ with neighbors.; for the Church to represent and carry the word of God and carry the hope of the gospel into the lives of people who have been affected.”