Flame4 It seems to me there’s been a noticeable shift these days toward individualism, the pursuit of personal fulfillment and pleasure at the expense of community and religious participation. It feels like we’re becoming more isolated, more narcissistic and more dependent on technology for our social communities. As a result we’re seeing a decline in most religious, social and community organizations that exist for the purpose of achieving something greater than the individual. Unfortunately when we focus so much on ourselves it tends to make us more self-absorbed and our neighbors become competitors. I have recently been reminded why this approach to life is neither attractive nor sustainable, but a huge personal disaster waiting to happen. Several weeks ago there was a flash flood in Mineral Wells, a disaster no one saw coming or was prepared to handle. In a matter of moments, over 150 homes and businesses were devastated and lives were forever changed. In the immediate aftermath, people were stunned and desperately looking for help and hope. The emotional toll was obvious as people began sifting through family photo albums and heirlooms now lost to the water and mud. I was disappointed as government agencies waited, watched and wondered what to do next, then disappeared. I suppose I should have expected this to happen; when we choose to live as individuals responsible to no one, then no one is responsible to us and help and hope are lost. In the midst of this chaos and despair, another group showed up who live by a totally different set of values. Their purpose is to restore hope and provided practical help to neighbors in need because it is the right thing to do - the human thing to do. It was local churches who responded within hours to coordinate relief efforts, provide emotional support and begin collecting the necessary supplies to begin the cleanup. It was the local churches that rolled up their sleeves and provided food, shelter, and living expenses for 32 adults and 9 children in hotels for two weeks and processed over 81 requests for home repair. It was the churches that worked for two weeks in sweltering heat removing wet insulation, drywall and damaged furniture. It is the local churches that continue even now to work with victims to find low income housing for the elderly, poor, disabled and HUD residents displaced by the water and coordinate furniture for those who do find a home, but have little else. As the debris is cleaned up, homes repaired and victims find new apartments, I can’t help but wonder what would have become of these individuals if local church communities had not seen them a children of God and responded as they did. I know that churches have received a lot of bad press these days and many are still skeptical of organized religion. But the alternative, individualism, is the worst of all. Over the past several weeks I have watched as church people felt the tug of compassion and stepped into this disaster without question or hesitation and supplies came pouring in from all over. The flood reminded me that no one can survive as an island for very long. Eventually life becomes overwhelming and we need help from someone. I thank God for the churches in this area that are committed to a different set of values, who believe helping others is essential to good emotional and spiritual health, and who, despite being criticized and ridiculed, are still willing to get into messy lives and to do all the good they can. They are called Christians, and thank God I am one of them.
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