This week we had a special ministry opportunity here in Nashville. We were invited to come to The Upper Room/GBOD and help make silk scarves — mantles of prayer — that will be given to each delegate and leader of the upcoming General Conference of The United Methodist Church. (The General Conference will take place in Tampa, Florida from April 24 – May 4, 2012.)
The process involved untreated silk scarves, three colors of water-soluble dye, salt, coated freezer paper, irons, loving hands, and prayerful hearts. Here’s a link to more photos of the process.
If you’d like to help make Mantles of Prayer for the General Conference, download these two PDFs of instructions:
You are invited to join together in 50 Days of Prayer for the upcoming General Conference. Sign up for a daily prayer email (starting March 16 and continuing through the end of General Conference). Or download a PDF of the booklet with the daily meditations. You can also purchase printed copies of the prayer booklet for yourself or congregation.
I first wrote this piece after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. I rewrote it for the sorrow in the world today.
350 dead. … 1,000 dead. … 10,000 dead in one prefecture. Trains, boats, entire villages washed away. Thousands missing. How many will have died when the counting is done? My ears hear, but my mind cannot comprehend these numbers … In this place far away from Tennessee, in a country I do not know and may never visit, people are suffering, people are crying.
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
– Matthew 2:18, NRSV
These words of the prophet Jeremiah apply today, too.
Voices are heard in Tokyo, Sendai, Kesennuma,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers,
friends and strangers weeping …
They refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
What can I say? How can I respond? These grieving, devastated people live so far away. But they are my sisters and brothers. They are children of the Most High, the God who must be weeping, too.
God of Compassion, with you and all the world family, we weep and mourn. Comfort all who are alone or afraid, who wail in loud lamentation, who cry silently. Let us be your heart reaching out to those who grieve. Let us be your hands working to assist those who still live. For you are the God who stands with the least and the lost. Come by here, Lord. Come by Sendai, Minamisoma, Ichihara, and Tokyo. Come by all the places that need your comforting and healing presence. Amen.
[I wrote this article after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. But I return to it as new disasters occur and I find myself overwhelmed by tragedy. 2010 has been a difficult year — from the earthquake in Haiti to the Nashville floods to the Gulf oil spill. How do we care without numbing?]
The earth seems to in great chaos — shootings, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, oil spills, floods, tornadoes. As we follow story after story of heartbreaking disaster, I wonder: “How can I continue to see, to hear, to read about these tragedies of human life? How can the aid workers continue to do their tasks as they hear the stories, see the losses, attempt to respond to the incredible needs? How can the survivors reach out to others when they have lost so much? How do they do it? And how did Jesus continue to care for people, day after day after day?”
JESUS MODELS CARING
The scriptures tell us that people followed Jesus everywhere. There were so many people with so many needs around him all the time. And Jesus met the needs of those people — touching them, healing them, feeding their spirits and their bodies. Jesus’ eyes saw the hurt; his ears heard the crying; his hands touched the wounded places; and surely, his heart felt pain — their pain, his pain — at seeing so many people with so many needs. I wonder, “Did Jesus ever experience compassion fatigue?” (I surely do.)
The scripture also tells us a little bit about how Jesus dealt with all the needs around him.
First, Jesus took action: He spoke with people. He touched them. He listened to them. He healed them. He gave of himself whenever he could. We can’t and don’t need to be Jesus; but we, too, can take action. Many of us can give financially or donate material goods to those in need. We can participate in community events responding to the disaster. We can help our families, friends, and children think of ways to take action.
Second, Jesus prayed: He lived his life through a series of “holy moments.” He sought God. He listened to God. He made time for his relationship with God. We can “pray the news.” Whenever we hear, see, or read about the disaster, say a prayer. Let that intersection become a way that you connect with God, asking God to be present to those in need around the world. Write a prayer list and pray it at least once a day.
Third, Jesus took time apart: He went away in a boat. He went up the hill and left his disciples behind. He sought out times to be alone with God. We can take time apart also. It may not seem that it’s ever possible, but think about the times in the day when you are alone. Standing in line at a store, driving in the car, sitting at your computer … these are times when you can take some deep breaths and turn your attention to God. Time apart for us today might mean “time away from the media.” Take a daylong fast from the news. Instead of watching the news, take that time to meditate or read the scriptures. Allow God to take care of the hurting places in the world by turning the world over to God during that day.
CARING FOR OURSELVES
Intense pain in the world and in our lives can be distressing and overwhelming, reminding us of our own grief and sadness. Just as Jesus took time away from hurting people, we also need to take care of our physical, mental, and spiritual selves.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, try praying this “rope’s end” prayer by Flora Slosson Wuellner:
As I think about how I can respond to the people, the pain, the tragedies that surround me, may I remember Jesus’ example: his compassion, his action and interaction, his life of prayer, and his trust in God.
Loving God, touch and heal the hurting all around the world. Give us wisdom, compassion, and loving hearts to respond as members together in the family of God. Help us to follow the example of Jesus in our actions, in our spiritual lives, in our families and communities. Show us how to love without tiring, to care without numbing, to pray without ceasing. Amen.
My friend, Abraham McIntyre, is working to bring healing to Haiti. The director of Bahamas Habitat, Abraham and his crew have been using social networking (both the new and the old kind), hard work, and creativity to fly medical supplies into the outlying areas of Haiti.
Bahamas Habitat normally works to build houses. But ever since the earthquake, Abraham and his volunteers have helped to facilitate evacuations out of Haiti and supply delivery into Haiti. As refugees leave Port-au-Prince and go to the countryside, the needs for medical relief there have increased.
Abraham’s always been a giver. A couple of years ago, I posted blog entries from him as he took his first year out of college and traveled around the world volunteering. He drove computer supplies to Belize, flew to the Bahamas to help fix up people’s houses, worked with homeless outreach in Atlanta. He ended up back in the Bahamas as the director of the program there. He has a knack at seeing needs and figuring out ways to meet them.
Ways to Help
Recruit donations of medical supplies
Identify small airplanes which are available to assist
Donate money to help purchase fuel for the flights