“What can I do to help?”

This is a question I have asked myself many times in my life.

This question floods my mind when I find myself glued to media coverage after disaster strikes.

What could I do as I sat in my college dorm room in Arkansas in 1995 when my home state faced the tragedy of the Oklahoma Federal building bombing?  I remember tears streaming down my face as my heart wanted to race home to help, yet I knew I had to stay at school.

How could I possibly help my fellow Americans in the Northeast, when I was an 8th grade teacher sitting in my classroom in Texas listening to radio coverage on the morning of September 11th, 2001?  Like everyone else in America, my heart longed to do something.  I longed to help someone that was affected, yet I knew I had a class to teach and 8th graders to influence on that fateful day.

Was there anything I could do in 2005 as a mother of two children under the age of two when an earthquake devastated Pakistan leaving over 3 million homeless?  This tragedy only gained media coverage for a few short nights, but with my brother serving as a first responder, mountain climbing to reach villages affected…my heart ached to go help my brother help the people of this country that I had grown to love over the years.

Tornadoes.  Earthquakes.  Bombings.  Hurricanes.  Wildfires.  School shootings.

These tragedies stop us in the tracks of our fast paced American lives, and for a moment we take time to sit quietly and feel the pain of others.  For a moment we sit still long enough to ask ourselves, “What can I do to help?”

Monday night, as I watched the media coverage of the devastation of the tornadoes that hit my home state of Oklahoma, again with tears in my eyes my heart ached with the question “what can I do to help?”

Though my heart was breaking,  I could find a glimmer of peace in the answer to that question.

“I am already helping these people I am watching on TV.  The first responders.  The parents.  The children.   The teachers.  The families of those who lost loved ones.”

You see.  . .  each month our family gives money to an organization that is always among the first to show up when tragedy strikes.  A group that has been highlighted numerous times on national news.

The organization that our family financially supports is my local church who gives a portion of my monthly tithe to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This Cooperative Program is the mission support organization that funds the Baptist General Convention’s Disaster Relief teams.  Many in the media often call this group ‘the Baptist men.’

Tears welled up in my eyes last night as I watched the evening news and Brian Williams interviewed Harry Smith with the backdrop of tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma.

safe_image.phpBrian Williams, “They have here FEMA and then they have almost a faith based FEMA.”

Harry Smith, “And as you and I have seen in so many different places, in this country if you are waiting for the government, you are going to be in for an awful long wait.  The Baptist men… they’re gonna get it done tomorrow.”

My generation has been quick to criticize the local church.  Many do not see a need to attend church, and sure don’t see the importance of giving money regularly to support the ministries of their local church.

Believe me, there are some things in the history of the Church that make me cringe.  Mistakes have been made.  Leaders have fallen from grace.  Our family has personally been wounded by some within the church.

Several times Joe and I (who both grew up in church and have degrees from seminary) have looked at each other and entertained the thought of giving up on the idea of church.

Maybe we could do more good on our own?  Do we really need the church to help people?  We both have giving hearts.  We both have a love for other people.  Surely we could do a lot of good on our own.

However, on a day like today as I watched Harry Smith and Brian Williams talk on the nightly news, I was reminded of the importance of my giving each week to my local church that gives money to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.

My offering seems small compared to some, but combined with those around the world who give regularly to this program…the impact is enormous.

This morning in my prayer time I asked God, “What do I need to do to help?”

Will I give extra money to the Disaster Relief Fund?  Absolutely.

Will I sign up to go with volunteer groups that are being mobilized from my church?  I hope to.

Will I collect water bottles and food to send?  I might.

To my surprise as I prayed, I felt a strong urgency to simply do the next thing I needed to do today.  That did not include hopping in a car to drive the hour and a half to the Oklahoma City area to help.

Instead, my heart felt a greater desire to ‘help’ the people whom I would brush shoulders with on an ‘ordinary’ Tuesday.

When images and stories of disaster are fresh on our minds, the ‘ordinary ways to show love’ become some of the most important.

Kissing my kids good-bye before they leave for school.

Telling my husband ‘I love you.’

Stopping to talk to the coworker who walks into work with tears in her eyes and taking the time to pray for her.

Smiling and saying a kind word to the QT cashier as he rings up my 69 cent tea.

Some days I find myself caught up in the rush of this life and miss opportunities to help people in the most ordinary ways.

But on a day like today, when the feeling of tragedy is raw, I am reminded that I shouldn’t wait until the next disaster to ask myself…

“What can I do to help?”

Every day people around me face heartache.

Jobs are lost.  Family members die.  Children disappoint.  Spouses betray.

May the disaster of the recent Oklahoma tornadoes propel us to give regularly and generously to our local churches and to slow down enough to reach out in love every day to those in our sphere of influence who need our help.

If you are looking for a way to help the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes directly, please consider supporting Oklahoma Disaster Relief.