By Aaron Pazan
Every time I turn on the news, I hear a story about a natural disaster happening in some far off location – except now, those far off locations don’t seem so far off.
I never thought I would experience first-hand a major natural disaster, let alone be halfway around the world while doing so. But, this past summer while I was in the Philippines for the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly, I experienced the category 4 Typhoon Glenda/Rammasun.
I remember quite vividly visiting the urban poor community. Cement buildings and little shanty houses lined the edges of a murky, green river where waste was regularly dumped. They had no running water or safe bathrooms. The one thing that will always be in the back of my mind is seeing children who were extremely happy and laughing joyfully. With what little belongings they had, the children were perfectly happy. I realized that it’s not about how many earthly possessions we have, but how we live our life. Are we willing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world or will we just go towards low-hanging fruit?
When we were at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Rev. Andrew Tiver gave a memorable sermon on climate change. He talked about natural disasters and how they are not God’s will – but are caused by global warming. God has never wanted natural disasters to happen on this earth. But because of how we treat the Kindom with earthly and man-made things, we as people are responsible for global warming and the disasters that follow. The natural disaster itself is not an act of God. Yet, it definitely is an act of God when we provide disaster response.
What does this mean for us, the next time a natural disaster hits? What does it mean for us today? Tiver’s sermon on climate change gave me some ideas on our relationship with God.
Tiver’s thoughts on God’s creation: “When we take the ground (God’s creation) and grind it into the dirt or when we do that to people – we do that to the image of God.”
How we treat the image of God is very important. We want to be able to reflect ourselves in the image of God.
Tiver’s thoughts on meeting needs: “The daily bread of our neighbors – the need – is our relationship to God. When we fail to respond to the needs of our neighbors, we are making the same response to God.”
When a natural disaster happens, we must put aside our own personal worldly needs and meet the need of the neighbors around us. How would one do that one might ask? Instead of just giving the survivors of the natural disaster unwanted help, ask them what they need from you. Their answers of what they truly need might surprise you.