When the news of Harvey started to dominate our news, those of us in the creation care community had a sinking feeling. Was this storm going to be the one that really shook Americans to finally concede that maybe a changing climate was here? Would Americans finally acknowledge that we have had a role in the warming and rising seas? The answer is yet to come, but it’s hard to ignore 50 inches of rain and counting.
Once again, the real news is the water and not the wind. If Hurricane Harvey had only impacted Port Aransas people would have understood it, but no one can really wrap their head around 6.7 million people not being in the path of wind but still suffering from flooding. This is the face of a changing climate.
The Atlantic Coast has known of rising measurements of sea levels for a while, especially since Superstorm Sandy. The City of Miami Beach has been in entrenchment mode for several years because the water around that barrier island has risen so much that on sunny days with a high tide they experience what they call “daytime flooding.” Why is it flooding when everything else is normal and the sun is out? Because the ocean has risen 6 to 10 inches since 1992 and it’s expected to rise anywhere from 31” to 61” by 2100 (Unified Sea Level Rise Projection for Southeast Florida). The City of Miami Beach has chosen to fight with a $350 million infrastructure project. That decision does not feel financially wise to me. How many times can you fight a rising sea?
What has been under reported is that every community along the Gulf Coast is now seeing anywhere from 0.25” to 0.50” of sea level rise per year (NOAA). Yes, per year. This may not seem like a lot, but an extra 0.50” over hundreds of acres of water around any Gulf Coast city is extremely dangerous.
But, who needs numbers? Let’s talk about what God called us to do- tend the garden.
People often think that when they are asked to protect the planet that means that people are being ignored. As Christians, we know that God saved the best for last and had such high regard for humans that he even let us name all the animals on earth.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
Genesis 2:19-20 NIV
However, as sinful humans, we tend to forget that the planet is God’s gift to us and are called to be good stewards of that gift.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15 NIV
We must start taking care of our creation or more extreme destruction is sure to come. We must be the leaders to take care of the planet as a manifestation of the love we have for God and gratitude for the beauty He has so abundantly given us.
Right now, we have a prime opportunity to do what Jesus asked us to do- love our neighbors.
It is so easy to get caught up in the news when a disaster like Hurricane Harvey strikes. The pictures of destruction are compelling and overwhelming. We hear the individual stories of strife, grief and rescue and think about how great it is that we pull together in times of crisis. However, what is never reported on the national news is the overall psychological stress that happens on a community.
When we think of PTSD, we think of our honorable military members, but post-traumatic stress disorder can happen to anyone who has been through a highly stressful situation. Millions of our sisters and brothers are suffering from PTSD right now. It’s not just Houstonians who are suffering. It’s anyone who has experienced this kind of loss before.
This is a national event. Anyone who survived a hurricane in their life could be watching the news and have their own PTSD triggered. So, even while people are pulling together, everyone involved is under extreme stress. We must be tuned into the spiritual suffering that is occurring.
There are so many tangible ways that people can help the victims of Harvey, but as Christians we have a special role. As Christians, we bring the hope and love. We need to be praying and finding ways to bring real spiritual healing to those suffering. Perhaps that could mean cards sent to shelters. Shelters are also calling for coloring books and crayons (find out how to donate here). What about a card with each coloring book that would bring a smile to a child’s face? We need think to about how we can show love at each and every action we take to help. The Houston Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is also looking for items. What if attached to a piece of clothing there was a love note?
My heart goes out to all of the people, and especially to those who evacuated from New Orleans during Katrina and permanently relocated to Houston. Those people are suffering again. The only thing I can do is to donate what I can, pray for all and ask God to show me a way to love those who are suffering so much.
The task is huge but we know that the Holy Spirit can work in wonderful ways when we respond to loving our neighbors. How will you answer the call?