A few short weeks ago, the Philippines were hit with torrential rains that caused some of the worst flooding since the 2009 flood that killed almost 1,000 people. The capital, Manila, was 70 percent underwater and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes.
Then on August 24, Tropical Storm Isaac hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains and destructive winds. Many people lost their crops, which means they no longer have food to eat or sell.
The Internet, television and radio in the U.S. exploded with news reports, interviews, blogs and tweets about these dire situations and what organizations were doing to come alongside the people affected. The call to help was loud and clear – pray and donate if you can. Then the storm hit the U.S., and that and political conventions have left the situations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic all but forgotten.
The effects of these floods has been devastating for thousands of people. NGOs and Christian-based organizations continue the hard work of bringing relief even after the spotlight and public attention fade.
Flooding disasters like these bring a host of issues – the need for clean water, shelter, food, clothing, and hygiene items as well as widespread contamination, death and disease that become vivid realities.
We at Food for the Hungry are privileged to provide emergency relief in over 20 countries around the world, including the Philippines, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We focus on emergency response and community transformation, and our boots are on the ground before and after the media attention wanes.
To the displaced Filipino mother, Haitian father and Dominican child alike, meals from a Food for the Hungry soup kitchen or desperately needed medical attention help quiet for a moment the myriad of questions they now face about rebuilding. In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, FH staff are seeking out communities isolated by the flooding to distribute life-saving supplies and assessing the loss of homes, animals and crops.
I sometimes wonder why the human attention span is so short. Patience and long suffering are words we read about in our Bibles and talk about in our small groups, but are not always the actions we live out in our lives. We get restless, diverting our gaze to something else at a moment’s notice. With our attention focused elsewhere, it can be easy to forget the poverty and suffering around the world.
But there is joy in seeing God work in tough places. Isaiah 41:17 (ESV) reminds us, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
When disaster strikes around the world or in our own communities, let’s not allow our eyes to wander away from the people who suffer as a result. Our God has certainly not forgotten them.
He has called His people to do the steady work of helping the poor, hungry and destitute. To be the feet that walk alongside and the hands that wipe away the tears, without glamour or glitz, to provide a steady foundation for those in need.
Whether you dedicate yourself to pray, travel to a country to help or support organizations like Food for the Hungry, there are many ways to make a big impact. We know that God will keep His promise not to forget about those in need. And someday looking back, we may see that God carried out His promise to not forsake the disaster survivors because He sent you.