Our attention, thoughts and prayers are currently focused on those who are suffering as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Some of our brethren have also been threatened by wildfires in the Northwest that have produced a lot of debilitating smoke.
Those of us who are not in harm’s way, and are able, should help those who are. I have been in contact with our pastors and leaders in the field who are letting us know the state of things and can let us know specifically what we can do to help. At this point, not everything is fully known. We have sent $12,000 in immediate aid from the home office to the Houston and Corpus Christi church areas. Our brethren have also provided in-kind help to their neighbors.
Of major concern at this moment is the impact from Hurricane Irma, that has been rated as one of the most violent storms on record. On some of the Caribbean islands, it has caused almost total devastation to populated areas.
Caribbean senior pastor Chuck Smith wrote this to me a few hours ago:
I wanted to give you an update on Hurricane Irma. So far, our brethren in the islands have been spared. However, unless Irma’s course changes, southeast Florida will most likely bear the brunt of the storm. The projected course takes it all the way north through Florida and then on up the east coast.
People here are taking this one very, very seriously. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for everyone along the coast. As with any impending disaster, lines for gas are very long, and bottled water is scarce. We are checking on the brethren here, and on our neighbors to see if they need help preparing. We have also canceled services this Sabbath so everyone can stay out of the way of those who are trying to evacuate and conserve their gas. Most businesses will have shut down by then.
We also have members on Grand Bahama Island. They are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew last year. The island is small, flat and very vulnerable to the strong winds and heavy rains.
We hope everyone will be praying for those in the path of Irma. And we continue our prayers for those affected by the fires taking place in Montana—another very serious disaster.
About Hurricane Harvey, Houston pastor Gary Smith wrote two days ago:
Hurricane Harvey has passed and the waters have begun to recede. At present, all the brethren and the church hall are in pretty good shape. We had five brethren who were impacted by the flooding. Four of the brethren are in various stages of removing carpet, flooring and damaged drywall. Once the damaged material is removed, the restoration process can begin. The fifth person entirely lost her trailer and her car. I did not learn of her situation until Sabbath. She has a place to stay, access to her job, and we provided for her so that she would have some operating money to begin the rebuilding process.
A member, one of the five, who lives close to the Brazos River in Sealy, Texas, feared the flooding got into her home and killed her livestock. However, in talking to her yesterday she mentioned that the flooding did not get into her home and neighbors indicated they had seen her bull and a heifer. She did not know the status of the other cattle or her chickens. While being flooded has caused damage, her situation is better than she originally feared.
At present, the primary need of those impacted by the flooding is financial. They all have shelter, food, water and other basic needs. The generous donations of church members will go a long way toward helping the rebuilding process. Thanks to everyone for their prayers and generous donations to the Good Works program.
Elder Mark Sappington also wrote to me this past week saying:
The Brazos River crested at a stage of 55.19, which is 4 feet below what was predicted. The levee was not breached, so 200,000 more people did not flood. One of the families in the congregation lives behind the levee, so their home will not be flooded.
Houston is drying out, and it is now a city where everyone is helping each other. There is no Republican, Democrat, white, black, Hispanic or Asian in Houston. We are all Houstonians and Texans, and we are all working together to get through this.
We thank all who have contributed the Good Works Disaster Relief Fund.
Regarding the effects of the fires in the Pacific Northwest, a member in one of our congregations suffers from lung issues, making breathing difficult on the best of days. With fires raging throughout the region, smoke and ash are filling the air, making air quality unsafe for those in the best of health. This is causing much difficulty for this member. We are helping her with an air purifier.
Ambassador Bible College
Ambassador Bible College has begun its 19th academic year with a new class of enthusiastic students. Starting with 23 students, the class has a strong international representation, with students from Brazil, Mexico, Germany and the Philippines. In age and background they range from recent high school graduates to some who have finished college and some partially through graduate school.
A new part of the Practical Christianity class this year features a series of presentations by Cleveland area elder Andrew Lee, along with Lisa Fenchel and a number of other well-qualified church members. This program is designed to help students purposely plan for life after ABC, and includes guidance in making education and career decisions. To help do this, each student is assigned a mentor who shares his or her career interests and can give advice in that pursuit. Of course this is only one part of the overall curriculum that has the focus of learning the precious truths of God’s Word, making them part of their lives, and preparing to pass them on.
This past weekend, we held our 16th Labor Day Leadership Workshop here at the home office. We hosted 58 participants, who came from many different regions of the United States and from Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.
The theme of this year’s workshop was again “Let This Mind Be in You” and focused on discipleship and service to the Church. The weekend featured 14 hours of instruction, including question and answer sessions. The attendees were also able to enjoy their meals together and had some time for discussion and socializing.
We’ve already reviewed the suggestions that were made by this year’s attendees and considering how to incorporate some changes into next year’s program.
In addition to this workshop at the home office over Labor Day weekend, we also hold regional leadership seminars at various sites around the country in conjunction with our regional ministerial conferences. Unlike the workshop at the home office, the regional leadership workshops are open to any member who would like to attend. Our next regional event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 29, in Stewartville, Minnesota. For more details please go here: https://www.ucg.org/members/regional-leadership-workshop-stewartville-mn . If you’d like to learn more about your own role as a disciple and how you can serve others, I hope you’ll join us when we come to your area.