If I were a Revelation watcher, I'd have my calculator out this morning, running the numbers again and again to see if the world might not be ending. Hurricane Katrina's devastation has grown worse with the advent of the deadly floods that are her aftermath. Twenty-thousand people do not, at this moment, have a way to get out of the Superdome, which will soon become uninhabitable. Looters run in and out of ruined stores, grabbing whatever they can carry; one woman holds a package of disposable diapers over her face as she passes the television camera.
Workers go from house to house, spray-painting black marks on the ones in which the dead remain: there is no time to recover them now, not with so many of the living still to be plucked from their rooftops.
In a Baghdad that was already one of the most dangerous places on earth because of the war, at least 640 people are dead this morning in the area around a Shi'a mosque after a false suicide bomber alarm caused a stampede during a spiritual pilgrimage. Men, women and children, trampled to death or drown in the Tigris after the railing of the bridge they were walking on collapsed and they tumbled into the water.
The devastation from flooding continues in India. The drought continues in Niger. The displaced in Zimbabwe remain homeless and without food. People in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India remain in camps after last year's tsunami. Everything continues.
And so the response must also continue. Episcopal Relief and Development will need your help again. If we tire of being asked to help again and again, we need only think of the exhaustion of the people who need that help and we will remember how blessed we are to be alive, dry, housed, fed, employed, healthy. If we grow weary of the bad news, sick at heart, we have help for that, too: a God who will strengthen and encourage and invigorate us for service when we turn to him.
A Prayer for Rescue, Recovery, Rebuilding
O gracious God, we will never understand the sorrows of the world, but by your grace we will not turn away from them. Renew and sustain in us the spirit of love that crosses miles. Cheer and encourage those who labor to help the injured, the homeless, the hungry and those in despair. Bless and soften the hearts of those who would take advantage of tragedy for their own profit, that they may come to know where true joy is to be found. Unite us in prayer with all those who look for help, and use us to come speedily to them with the things that they need. We ask these things in your own most holy Name. AMEN.
Episcopal Relief and Development needs your help again in the enormous task of responding to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. To make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.