I was delighted to receive an e-mail recently from one of my New Orleans friends, who had lived in one of the most affected areas of the city. I'd been concerned, because he had been out of touch since the disaster. I'd been remembering him in my prayers ever since hurricane Katrina struck, so I was especially happy when his communication reached me.
He wrote me that he had decided to relocate completely, and now he and his wife are beginning a new life in Houston. Others, however, can't imagine living anywhere else, but can't imagine how they will recover, either.
In praying for those in the hurricane-devastated areas, I turned to the Holy Scriptures, which have given hope and courage to millions of people over the centuries. I found the Bible prophet Joel's record of God's message of renewal heartening: "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.... I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:21, 25).
Clouds of locusts still threaten the Middle East and North Africa from time to time, coming in swarms and devouring everything in their path, leaving behind a trail of devastation and want. I don't think it's a misreading of the Scriptures to understand that the "locust" in this verse can stand for any disaster. The book of Joel reminds us that no matter what, God is able to do great things and to restore us.
This message of hope can apply to New Orleans as easily as it can to the Middle East. It is not an empty prophecy, but it isn't magic either.
God gives us the intelligence, hope, and courage to do what is necessary, and awakening to this message is important for those who have lost so much. Equally important is that the Love that is God can awaken within those of us who do not live in the Katrina-affected areas of the United States a more consistent awareness of the continuing necessity to express brotherhood in philanthropic ways.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good" (p. 518).
It's important for this need not to disappear from our awareness. Our brothers' and sisters' needs in rebuilding will require sustained support, not only for the money for low-cost loans and grants, but also so that those affected know that they have not been forgotten. Here is a tangible and practical way to express God's dear love.
God's love can help both the rebuilder and the contributor in a circle of love, a grand brotherhood, which can unite us all as members of His family, and all of us will be blessed.
Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other's cross to bear;
Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel his brother's care.
Help us to build each other up,
Our little stock improve;
Increase our faith, confirm our hope,
And perfect us in love.
Up unto Thee, our living Head,
Let us in all things grow;
Till Thou hast made us free indeed,
And spotless here below.
Charles Wesley, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 105