The Preacher’s Role During Natural Disasters

By: Dwight Moody
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2010 10:50 pm
Section:’s Latest Articles

Members of Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue conduct a rescue operation at the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 14. (Photo: U.S. Navy) “Leave God … out of discussion about Haiti” stated the second-page headline in Kathleen Parker’s syndicated column. She was reacting, of course, to public comments by TV evangelist Pat Robertson, who connected the earthquake in Haiti to the wrath of God and the curse of Satan.

Both of these comments leave unsaid the proper role of the preacher in the midst of a terrifying natural disaster.

First and foremost, a preacher is a member of the human community and is therefore also at the mercy of nature. Wind, fire, water and quake have, for millennia, devastated the natural and human communities. I visited Yellowstone National Park a few years after a fire destroyed much of the vegetation and some of the animal life of the park. It was sad.

Sadder by far is the earthquake that struck our hemisphere’s poorest people. Perhaps as many as 200,000 perished; millions are left without food, water, shelter and medical attention. It is a tragedy that dwarfs Yellowstone, 9/11 and the economic collapse – combined.

A preacher, as a human being, must be filled with compassion and energized by courage. The compassion will lead him or her to forsake normal routines of living and giving to invest in the assistance to Haiti. Many preachers, including some American preachers, were among those killed in the quake. Likewise, many preachers must be among those who volunteer time, labor, money and leadership to the recovery of our neighbors and the renewal of their land.

A preacher is also the public leader of a community of faith. In such a time, the preacher must lead in prayer, must call attention to the plight of others, must help those of us who whine about insignificant things to repent of such narcissistic behavior and take to heart the real tragedy of the world. A preacher must help us put things in proper perspective, must call us to deny ourselves and our petty preferences and give ourselves to the wider, nobler good of caring for people. If a preacher can arouse the listening congregation to such behavior, the work of the gospel will be advanced.

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