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FIRST-PERSON: Tsunami, one year later — why are we helping?

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works (James 2:15-18, HCSB).

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The response of Southern Baptists in the face of the heart-rending tsunami has been unprecedented. Never have so many churches, state conventions and missionaries joined forces to address a tragic situation that touched two continents and numerous countries simultaneously.

However, the newness of the disaster has already begun to wane. Media reports mention it less and less. Few governments continue to publicize their pledges. Many already have forgotten the multiple millions who survived the initial tragedy only to face a new one: survival in a different world.

As Southern Baptists, we should now ask ourselves, “Why are we helping?”

As I have worked throughout the various affected areas, I have heard from volunteers, numerous Southern Baptist churches and fulltime personnel who ask, “Why are we helping?”

First, I think that as Christians we share the characteristic of compassion. A survey of the New Testament shows many people came to Jesus because He was able to meet a physical need they had. Most who came to Him did not come to hear His message. However, He used the opportunity to minister to the physical need and often told about Himself at the same time. There were even times when He met a need, told about Himself and then asked the person not to tell others about what He did.

So how does the ministry of Jesus inform our work today and answer the question, “Why are we helping?”

We are helping because we share His compassion and because we want to tell others about Him. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (HCSB). We are to be clothed with compassion.

Next, I see in the Scriptures a very clear command to prove the soundness of our faith. In James 2:15-18, James exhorts believers to show their faith is not dead faith, because dead faith is not saving faith. James specifically mentions a situation where a person is in need of food and clothing and is given the spiritual advice to be warm and filled. However, the advisor does nothing to meet that need.

As followers of Jesus, this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our faith is not dead. It is a chance to skip “God talk,” put feet to our faith and prove to the lost world that we are helping because Jesus is real -– and we are, too. We are helping because we want to prove our faith is not dead.

Finally, I find that God has given His people an interpretation of this event that extends past the tragedy itself. Some have felt that this tragedy was judgment from God upon the lost.

Others have felt the tsunami may have been a wake-up call and judgment upon the church for ignoring such a large portion of the lost world, many who have never seen a Christian or heard about Christ.

But it seems that most have seen this as a part of God’s plan to involve the church in a relevant way where He is working. We are helping because we are a part of His plan to bring all nations to Himself.

Why are we helping tsunami survivors?

Southern Baptists are on mission with God to exhibit His compassion, to convey the life of our faith and to join God in bringing all nations to saving faith in Him.
*Name changed for security reasons. Philip Monroe is a Southern Baptist disaster relief specialist serving in Asia.

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  • Philip Monroe*