As Hurricane Gustav barrels into some wary Gulf Coast state, many of you will faithfully pray for evacuees and homeowners and law enforcement personnel in the affected area. Might I ask you to take an extra minute on your knees and to lift up before our Lord the thousands of volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief who will mobilize to meet this disaster wherever it strikes? I'm sure that they could give you an ever better idea of how to pray, but I'll offer these suggestions:
- Pray for opportunities to share the gospel. Unapologetically I will say that any disaster relief that does not bring people to a confrontation with the gospel is, in eternal terms, a missed opportunity and a wasted effort. Our disaster relief volunteers want to share the gospel, but more importantly, local congregations get the opportunity to present the gospel through the efforts of disaster relief efforts. Indeed, sometimes the efforts emanate into the community from a headquarters at a local church.
- Pray for their safety. A hurricane strikes quite a blow against the infrastructure of an area. It also sometimes attracts looters and miscreants. Law enforcement officers do a great job of keeping the volunteers safe, but even an emerging medical problem can pose extra difficulties with the local doctors' offices decimated and local hospitals overwhelmed by the effects of the disaster. So pray for the health and safety of the volunteers.
- Pray for the families, homes, and enterprises left behind by disaster relief volunteers. These people drop everything at a moment's notice and trudge miles and miles away to help people they've never met. Contrary to what you might presume, they are not all retired people with nothing to do (indeed, most retired people are not people with nothing to do!). These volunteers need the blessing of God upon the things that they sacrifice and neglect in order to provide disaster assistance.
- Pray for wisdom for the people in leadership over disaster relief. The coordinating efforts required to manage a disaster response are formidable. I'm talking about our NAMB and state DR leadership, but I'm talking about even more people than that. In the 2005 Astrodome response in Houston, it was my blessing to sit through some of the briefings and meetings managed by Harris County Judge Robert Echols and to see at close hand some of the labors borne by incident commanders and other people in leadership on the scene. These people didn't sleep very much…not for days or weeks. They faced a multifaceted set of problems that was unprecedented and unanticipatable (to coin a word?). The effectiveness of our volunteers usually depends to some large degree upon the effectiveness of these people. So pray for them. Not all local leadership is of the same caliber, and depending upon where Gustav chooses to make entry, this item may require more or less prayer attention. I think we've all seen in years past what the varying quality of local leadership can do to affect the response to a disaster.
- Pray for the churches in the disaster area. Some churches didn't survive Katrina and Rita. Ideally, a moment of community crisis (if the community survives!) should be a season of opportunity for God's people. Pray that God will sovereignly use this destructive hurricane to draw errant souls to Him.