In 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through Southeast Louisiana and Mississippi in a catastrophic and unexpected way. Personally, my family and I had never left for a hurricane before and decided to leave New Orleans, like many others, 24 hours before Katrina hit.
After a few days, we found refuge and assistance in Houston, Texas, at a local cell church, Servant of Nations, where my sister, Karen, serves on staff. In the days that followed, I asked God many times why this happened to me. I took Katrina personally; I looked through my life and tried to find the sin that had caused this event. It was eating me up inside that I could have done something differently, but instead my bad choices had destroyed New Orleans. On that Sunday, we went to church, and Pastor Izes Calheiros looked at me while preaching and said, “This storm is not about you; God is doing something!” I don’t really remember the rest of the message that day, but as she looked me right in the eyes and spoke into my spirit exactly what I had felt for days, but didn’t have the courage to say aloud. My heart was broken, but in that brokenness, the healing process began.
It took months to complete the relief work, years to rebuild the city and over a decade later, there are still scars of Hurricane Katrina and still work to be done. The city of New Orleans will never be the same again.
In the days after Katrina, Celebration Church’s cell groups met wherever they could, and some cell groups even evacuated together. It brought people through the conflict stage of cell growth in a way that had I never been seen. This growth was a beautiful thing, but I pray that we never have to go through such a catastrophic event like this again.
All over the world people face disasters that we, as cell church, can help with in many different ways. The first thing we can do is pray! Pray that those going through a disaster would have the courage to rise up and defeat the feelings of hopelessness and despair.
If you know someone in the area that has been impacted by a disaster, reach out to them. You can send messages on social media, or you can call or text them messages of hope. Let them know you are there and encourage them with your support. Try not to give “pat” answers like, “God has a plan,” “You’ll be OK,” or “Just trust the Lord.” While this may be true, it is best to listen and really hear what the person is saying. They may be angry with God or feel alone and abandoned. All of those feelings are OK, and God does have the answer to what they are facing. Just being there in whatever way you can will be of great encouragement to them. Let them know you are a safe person with whom they can share.
Find out how your home cell church is helping to minister to those who have been impacted by the disaster, and talk with your cell group to see what you can do to help. Perhaps you could collect basic relief supplies or take up an offering. Some people in your cell might have the available time and specific skills to actually be the “boots on the ground” to go with a relief team and serve in the affected community. You could have the children in your cell group draw cheerful pictures of love and hope and send them to the church with notes of encouragement. Last year in a disaster, we had a group of ladies come together and make over 500 pillowcases and fill them with pillows for all of those in need because one of the group members missed her pillow so much after her own home flooded.
Whatever you can do as a small group or a large congregation, come together as the body of Christ, and make a difference in the lives of those impacted by disaster.
This article originally appeared here.