Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out … Our hearts go out

Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out …
Wal-Mart was trying help to people in California who just lost their homes in a fire.  Maybe you’re thinking, wow – Wal-Mart is doing something good.  You might also have a “finally” at the end of that thought.  Of course, the Red Cross is always there to help.  Right?  You might have either of those thoughts about FEMA.  They do, after all, have a way of always seeming to end up with issues about the relief provided.  Well, here’s what’s happening.

Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out … Our hearts go outThe msn.com article starts off:

The days appear to be numbered at a makeshift camp in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Chico, where dozens of evacuees from the Camp Fire have been told it’s time to leave.

So we see, Wal-Mart did do something to help.  Let’s give them credit for that. They deserve it.  But the problem isn’t really Wal-Mart.

What follows after that act of kindness by Wal-Mart is something from apparently the Red Cross and certainly from FEMA that’s a perfect example of something I wrote a while back: Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out …  .

Co-organizer Luigi Balsamo said the Red Cross has told them to shut everything down by 1 p.m. Sunday, when the donation bins and portable bathrooms will be removed. “We need a clear exit strategy,” said Balsamo.

It has evacuee Carol Whiteburn in a panic. “They’re taking everything on Sunday — the bathrooms, the lights, everything. I don’t know what we are going to do.”

It’s a crisis shared by more than 100 people in the camp.

Crisis is putting it mildly.  You lose your home.  Wal-Mart makes their parking lot available.  The Red Cross is helping.  You’re thankful for at least having a safe place to stay until FEMA gets there and you can start the process of rebuilding. 

Actions versus thoughts and prayers

But then it all starts to crumble.  The Red Cross is pulling out all their stuff.  Wal-Mart really can’t really provide that same level of support  While I’d love to blame Wal-Mart for making the people leave, I also have to believe the liability for having them stay without Red Cross support is just too high.  Unfortunately, part of life in this country is lawsuits – even when well-intentioned efforts go wrong.

No, I can’t help but wonder if the real failure is this:

Emergency officials say they’re aware of it, but federal assistance isn’t available yet.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster recovery center being set up in an old Sears store won’t even be open until Friday and even then, temporary housing options aren’t in place.

The article doesn’t say whether those “emergency officials” are state or federal.  Either way – they are people who are paid to show up at a moments notice to provide assistance.  At this point, the fire has been burning for eight days.  Eight days!  I’m not an emergency response person.  Honestly, I don’t know if eight days is long enough to set up all that’s needed or not.  It feels like a long time.  But I just don’t know.

Having said that, these are professionals.  It’s their job to know.  Their job to know whether eight days is enough time to have something more permanent.  And it’s their job to make sure that short-term relief is available until the long-term relief is up and ready to go.  That seems reasonable.

The article goes on:

FEMA says in the meantime, shelters are supposed to fill the gap.

However, four of the shelters housing Camp Fire evacuees currently have norovirus outbreaks, and are getting worse every day. “I’d rather breathe the smoke,” said Whiteburn.

So while the camp has stopped accepting donations and told everyone their deadline, what happens to the evacuees in the camp is a looming uncertainty.

“We have weather coming. It’s going to rain. What happens when it rains on all this stuff, or the flood zone where these people — their tents are camped out over here?” asked  Balsamo. “We’re going to have a major crisis on our hands for the community here of Chico if these people have to go hit the streets.”

It’s their fault

So it’s down to a finger-pointing issue.  And who gets caught in the middle?  The people who lost their homes.

At this point, you may be wondering – why am I writing about this on a site about God?  
Well – here it is:

“What do you tell people who are sleeping in a parking lot and still have to wait 5-7 days to even get an answer from FEMA?”

“I would tell them that our heart goes out to them,” said FEMA External Affairs Officer Brad Pierce. “We understand the situation. We are working around the clock to try and help them.”

our heart goes out to them

Our hearts going out – our thoughts and prayers go out – what does that really accomplish?

Unless we’re expecting God to miraculously set up temporary housing, personal hygiene facilities, Etc. – these things do nothing in the way of physical relief.  People contribute money to help the folks who are going through issues like this.  Really, it’s about the only thing we can do.  We can’t all fly out there.  We wouldn’t be allowed in anyway.  

Some people contribute to the Red Cross.  Some to foundations set up to help.  Or to other organizations.  FEMA and state offices get money from our taxes.  The system is set up to help.  But it doesn’t really work out.  We’ve been having these kinds of problems for long enough that you’d think we could do a better job.  If I had that kind of failure in my job – I would have been fired.

But then there’s one thing I never would have considered saying – our heart goes out to them.  Or my thoughts and prayers go out to the people who are suffering because of my failure to do my job well.

For one thing, saying that my heart goes out to someone suffering because of something I did – or didn’t do – doesn’t help anyone.  But to me, as a Christian, this sounds too much like, my thoughts and prayers go out to them. 

So whats wrong with hearts going out?

Yes – thoughts and prayers are important.  Prayers, especially.  But having said that, sometimes that’s not enough.  For better or worse, Jesus left us with the command to be His representatives on earth – Christians.  As such, sometimes what we need to do is truly be His representative.  To do the things He’d want us to do.  As Paul wrote:

Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

No – I don’t really expect government people to be singing hymns while they’re providing relief.  It’s the last part that I want to point out:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

But I do hope that a Christian Organization, like the Salvation Army, does better.  

I also send my thoughts and prayers for the people affected by the fires here in California.  

I also send out my prayer that some Christian organization – like the Salvation Army, who also got my contribution, will step forward and help out at Wal-Mart.


Yes, the Red Cross started out with a religious background.

The Christian Origin of the Red Cross

However, in order to maintain an ability to operate around the world, those Christian origins must take a back seat.  I’m not judging them for having done that.  Just stating the facts as they are.  Governments, including our own, sometimes have problems with Christian organizations getting involved.  It’s a consideration for organizations like the Red Cross.

On the other hand, organizations like the Salvation Army have Christianity as part of what they do.

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