The God of Short-Term and Long-Term Relief

The eruptions of La Soufrière have brought a great crisis upon the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Particularly for those in the “red zone” where the ash and damage of buildings makes it unlivable.

At the same time, Soufrière’s eruptions have brought blessings upon our lives! One of the greatest is seeing God provide for our needs in absolutely amazing ways.

Since the original eruption on April 9, I have received a gift of $1,000, along with another $1,000 coming, and yesterday got a check for $500 1. This doesn’t count the gifts that are sent directly to Baptist Mid-Missions without my knowledge.

These and other funds will provide short-term help:

  1. Through relief packages
  2. Bottled water
  3. Replenishing of the food bank at a Church in Kingstown park
  4. And establishing smaller food banks in other Churches for those not in the Kingstown area

This is reason enough to praise God, but the Lord has also provided for what I would refer to as long-term help.

the road to recovery is going to be very long for those in the “red zone” areas. It will take many months before things will return to a form of normalcy. Because of this. There’s also a need for larger amounts of food and goods that can be set aside for future use.

The provision of long-term help is far more difficult because it costs more money, and there needs to be a large amount of goods.

it’s amazing to see how the Lord has not only met our need for short-term relief, but also the need for relief in the long term.

I could list many long-term blessings. But let me just share one.

A friend from my home Church in the States called a few Saturdays ago to ask about the possibility of sending some barrels. I was incredibly grateful, and gave him the information for a shipping agency that could help.

In my mind, I could see them sending two or three barrels……

He called back Saturday to say they are planning to send TEN!

These and other experiences are wonderful reminders that the Lord is indeed still at work.

He may not provide the way I want Him too…..

But He will provide

And His way is always best

  1. All of these funds are sent through Baptist Mid Missions, and are put into Vincentian Pastors hands to fund a food bank in SVG.

Missions is…not just relief work

Since the first eruption of La Soufrière, my schedule has been thrown off. normal ministries centred on evangelism or discipleship. Ministries after the eruption involved cleaning, distributing relief, and transporting needed items.

While we are very far from recovered from the volcanic eruptions 1, things have thankfully calmed down in Barrouallie to the extent that life is beginning to return to normal.

While I’m very thankful for “boots on the ground” ministry that involved practical things like delivering goods, and clearing yards. I’m excited for the opportunity to return to my Scripture based ministry of Evangelism and Discipleship (or reach and teach).

This may seem strange since the very practical ministries during the crisis following the initial eruptions had a deep impact upon the lives of individuals.

But the “reaching and teaching” is more important because individuals are dealing with their eternal destiny.

experiencing a natural disaster like the eruptions of La Soufrière is an important reminder of our weakness when compared to God. It also makes individuals think about their eternal destiny following death.

In these moments God has individuals attention. And while it’s incredibly important to make sure their physical needs are met, it’s more important to clearly explain the Gospel.

  1. Because things cannot bring happiness
  2. Because sin always destroys our lives
  3. Because their true need is to be saved for eternity
  4. And because Salvation brings the hope the world never can

This is important to remember because I’m spending lots of time these days doing relief work, which does glorify God.

But I am not called to meet the physical needs of others…..

I’m called to lead them to Christ, and train them to reach others.

Obviously this doesn’t mean I don’t overlook financial needs. But filling their belly with food is not as important as placing their faith in Christ

So I happily feed the needy…..

But make sure my goal is a transformed heart instead of a full belly.

  1. We actually still have them, experienced the thirty-first this morning

Missions is…helping those who you can

A blessing of the volcano eruptions is it has highlighted the need for financial help in many areas of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Poverty is a huge issue in many of our communities even without a natural disaster, so now more are needy than ever before.

The generosity of friends and local Churches has allowed me to begin meeting the needs of those in the community. Twenty bags of food were distributed over the weekend, and I’ll distribute another fifteen this afternoon. Along with this, I’m in the process of distributing thirty cases of bottled water.

The Lord has also provided funds from the US that will fund a food bank in Kingstown, and barrels that will arrive from the States in coming months.

While I am encouraged by the opportunity to give, its discouraging because the need is so great.

For every family that receives a bag of food relief, there are three or four families who need it!

The sad truth is you cannot help everyone. So while doing your best to meet everyones needs, it’s necessary to emphasise help on a small group of people.

As a missionary my primary responsibility is to those who attend Tabernacle Baptist Church. So relief is given first to members of the Church, as well as those who attend faithfully.

That’s actually the easy decision

The hard choice is what to do with the relief thats left over…

I’ve thought and prayed over that question a lot. For me personally the answer is those who are in the greatest need.

These are individuals who I would define as being in the “greatest need”

  1. Shut in’s: Older saints who cannot leave the house, and are often forgotten
  2. Families with lots of children (three or four)
  3. Single mothers
  4. And those men who are looking for work, but cannot find any

This doesn’t mean of course that you don’t help others when they ask for it. While delivering water yesterday two families who weren’t on my list asked for some, and I gave it to them with a smile. But there must be an emphasis of help with individual families.

There are four families who live near a church member. Over time, I’ve developed a relationship with them, and the Lord has really placed a burden upon my heart for these families at this time.

This burden led me to help them in practical ways….

  1. Like filling bottles with water, and delivering it to them when they didn’t have any
  2. Giving out bags of food
  3. And checking in to see how things are going every day

There is also a woman who is in GREAT financial need in the community who the Lord placed upon my heart. I’ve been able to provide bread, groceries, food, and even ripe bananas to her.

There’s another single mother near me who has very little, and is struggling to make ends meet. The Lord let me help her with money for her stove-gas when it went out Friday, and groceries Monday.

I do realise there are a huge number in need. And if I could, I would minister to every one of them individually. But because that isn’t possible, I minister to those the Lord places upon my heart

Missions is….seeing Gods Protection in the storm

Sunday evening the volcano erupted for what I believe is the thirtieth time since the eruptions began. It’s kind of hard to tell since they are smaller now, and often come in the early morning.

By the looks of it, I could tell that this eruption was a big one. Possibly one of the biggest yet. It was a bit discouraging since things were beginning to get back to normal.

About fifteen minutes after the eruption a huge cloud of ashes began descending on the community. It made for a very strange and eerie sight.

About a half-hour later it was very dark, which is usual here for 6:30. Part of me worried that there would be a lot of cleanup to accomplish the next morning.

Instead this is what I found

To be fair, this picture was taken at 11:30 yesterday morning after a work crew had come by to scrape the road clean.

Thankfully the wind was strong Sunday, and the huge cloud of ashes instead of falling on us was carried out to sea. Its my understanding that a lot of it fell on Barbados.

Though there is still a long road of recovery ahead of us at SVG, Sunday was an important reminder that things could be worse.

When we think about the protection of God, many of us think about the Lord protecting us from the tough experiences of life. This is definitely a way that He protects us, but not the only way.

One of the most common ways God protects us in a trial is not by removing the trial itself, but giving us grace within that trial.

This protection is harder to see because Satan wants us to focus on the pain or hardship instead of God goodness. However, Scripture is clear that Gods with us in the storm. We just have to look harder than usual sometimes.

I honestly wish the protection of God would always be clear as the wind blowing a cloud of ashes out to sea.

But the daily protection of God usually comes in more subtle ways……..

So we have to look closer, and trust His goodness even when the cannot see His presence.

And if we look hard enough….we will see the Lord blowing the ashes away.

Missions is….doing the job right

The last few days I’ve been going to bed early, and sleeping in late. That has something to do with feeling as if I’ve been run over by a truck!

Sunday cleanup began following the volcano’s eruption Friday morning. Since then a huge part of my time has been spent shovelling ashes either from the church, or my own yard.

Sunday was actually the hardest day since there was a very heavy ash fall from Saturday, and it then rained that morning. The consistency of the ash became like mud which was not only hard to shovel, but incredibly slippery.

The physical work is at the same time exciting and exhausting. Exciting because most of my work is usually either mental, or social (interacting with others). The exhausting part is self-explanatory 🙂

Much of my ministry now revolves around clearing and cleaning instead of visitation or teaching since people stay home, and going to their houses makes cleaning harder for them. So I keep in touch through text messages, and phone calls.

To be honest, cleaning and shovelling ash isn’t what comes to mind when I think of “ministry.” Yet I’ve learned that doing hard or frustrating jobs well is a great testimony for Christ.

Cleaning ash takes time, and is very frustrating:

  1. It tends to kick up dust
  2. You end up covered in ashes
  3. And often you need to do it again a few hours later!

At the same time, doing these frustrating jobs well is a ministry because people see your hard work.

Tuesday morning I had lots of hard work to accomplish since the church roof was swept of Monday afternoon. This left lots of wet and heavy ashes on the ground that had to be scraped up with a shovel, put into a bucket, and transferred to the church yard.

While I was doing this, a man came by and offered to sweep the front yard of the church for a small fee. I promised to pay him, and went back to my work, only for him to declare ten minutes later that he was “finished.” As you can imagine, he didn’t do a good job at all, but because I promised money he got paid something for it.

Yesterday morning I did the front yard spending over an hour on what he did in ten minutes. Honestly it will have to be done again this morning, but that doesn’t matter because people noticed my work

Of course I don’t always work hard, like everyone else I have my lazy moments. The point is that ministry involves having a “work ethic.” And part of that is doing the hard or difficult work the right way.

  1. Taking your time
  2. Going above and beyond 1
  3. And having a positive attitude

I’m still feeling the affects of this weeks work (lots of Advil) but those short-term aches and pains are worth a testimony of hard work done the right way.

  1. I swept the church neighbours yard to keep the ash out of ours