Hope in the Ashes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A forest fire threatened Fort McMurray and has now heavily impacted the city. What hope can there be in destruction? Where is God when so much has been lost? As spectators from afar, we often wait for God to act – send rain and change the wind direction. But God has equipped all of us to respond.

hope

God’s hope is found when we move into action.

My parents’ home was close to a forest fire three years ago, and anxiety naturally rose to the surface. It’s amazing though, how the things that mattered the most became my main concern. I didn’t think about their house or car, family pictures, or even my childhood items that I never did collect. My immediate concern was the safety of my parents and friends in the area.

As I look towards Fort McMurray, I’m astounded as friends, neighbours and acquaintances run for safety. Highways blocked with vehicles and dark smoke. I’ve watched videos of families leaving their houses behind to make homes in temporary camps and hotels. I can’t even comprehend the overwhelming feeling so many are experiencing right now.

What can I do to help?

I’m sure we all want to do something.  Some are able to volunteer, open their doors for displaced families, and help rebuild in the near future. From a distance, however, there are few things we can do.  But what we can do, can make a huge impact!

There are few things we can do, but what we can do can make a huge impact! #ymm Click To Tweet

Simply stated – we can pray, fast, and give.

We all know we can pray and fast, but sometimes we forget that every dollar makes a huge difference.  If we all helped according to our means, Fort McMurray’s residents would experience hope in the ashes.

But where’s God?

From the beginning, God has been at work.  The very fact that there have been no fatalities is a true testament to God’s mercy and hope.  Part of this hope is realizing that human life is ultimately God’s greatest gift. Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can’t replace each other.

Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can't replace each other. #ymm Click To Tweet

Moving forward, God is acting through His Church.  God is calling believers everywhere to step up and be the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s called being the body.  In talking about unity, Paul wrote:

25…there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together…1

That means by praying, fasting, and giving to those hurting, we are acting in unity with the body and therefore expressing God on this earth.  We’ll never be able to explain why bad things happen, but we can always choose how we will respond.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes. #ymm Click To Tweet

Your turn…

Let’s pray and fast together! Prayer helps us speak to God, and fasting helps us hear God’s heart. You can read more about prayer and fasting in my previous posts (“Prayer: The Sincere and Authentic Heart” and “Fasting: 3 Reasons Why We Fast“).

Join with me in a practical way – give towards the crisis response.  The Red Cross has taken an active role and the Alberta government has partnered with them as well:

RED CROSS Emergency Appeal or text REDCROSS to 30333 to make a $5 donation.

The Alberta government is matching donations made to the Red Cross.2

Here are some other groups you can give through:

ERDO Fort McMurray Crisis Response

Samaritan’s Purse Wildfire Response


PHOTO CREDIT: CBC – The majority of homes and some vehicles were destroyed in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Beacon Hill. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)

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Operation Christmas Child: 6 Reasons Why You Should Participate

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Most of us would agree that helping Children in need is a high priority.  Sometimes, however, we downplay our role in this process.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t think we can make much of difference or that our budget isn’t big enough to make any real change.  I want you to know that there is a great opportunity for you to help in a meaningful way!  You can pack a shoebox. Operation Christmas Child has been operating around the world since 1970.  Since inception, they have distributed almost 10 million shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.  I want to offer you six reasons why you should participate in Operation Christmas Child this year.

Operation Christmas Child

1. You are helping children around the world.

Let’s start off with an obvious one.  Operation Christmas Child was created to help children.  Even more specifically, to give less fortunate children a taste of the giving spirit of Christmas.  Many of the children who will receive a shoebox this year have no concept of the commercialized Christmas we experience in North America.  These children will simply open a small box of loved-packed toys, hygiene items, school supplies and other small blessings.  These items not only bless children physically, but also bless them emotionally and socially as they quickly realize that there are people in this world that care about them.

2. You will partner with an organization who cares.

Samaritan’s Purse, the organization behind Operation Christmas Child, is a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that has been meeting needs around the world since 1973.1  In 2014 alone, their efforts included providing over 76,000 households with Ebola infection prevention kits in Liberia and sending 60,000 shoebox gifts to ISIS-fleeing refugees in Iraq.  They also responded to disasters all over the world – helping 50,000 families in Nepal, 4,000 families in the Congo, and even relief for 800 flood victims in High River, Canada.2  While this is a Christian organization, and they care about the spiritual health of those they help, their primary concern has been meeting the needs around them.  Their finances prove this even further – 91% of their expenditures are directly related to their ministries.3  By participating in Operation Christmas Child, you’ll get to partner with this great organization.

3. You will bring unity within your family, group or work place.

Nothing else brings people together like helping others.  Whether you pack a shoebox as a family, group or work place, this project is guaranteed to bring you all closer together.  Families can include their children in the process of picking out items, groups can create a team project, and work places can pool resources to see how many shoeboxes they can pack.  The possibilities are endless.

Consider taking a photo of everyone who helped pack the box and place it inside the shoebox.  I’ve been told, by someone who handed out boxes to children overseas, that the children who receive photos are so grateful and overwhelmed to see the people who care about them.

4. You will teach your children how to give.

In a consumeristic world of want, want, want, get, get, get, Operation Christmas Child has the potential of teaching our children what it actually means to give.  Not only will children experience giving a gift to a child in need, they also get to experience giving, without expecting something in return.  It’s truly a selfless act that our society doesn’t usually promote.

Operation Christmas Child also teaches children the blessings they have.  No matter our economic situation in North America, we are beyond blessed when compared with many of the children who will receive a shoebox.  This project helps children have a deep appreciation for what they have and hopefully heightens their responsibility to help others.

5. You will be challenged to give.

Every year I’m challenged to do more.   Whether it’s to pack one more shoebox, volunteer my time with a local collection centre, or give an extra monetary donation to help the organization go further, this project challenges me every year.  Don’t think for a minute that learning how to give is only for children!

My wife had a great idea one year.  Instead of giving a regular gift to our family members, we packed everyone a shoebox full of smaller items (some needs, some wants).  For one thing, it was refreshing to scale things down for a change, but, more importantly, it helped us to focus on family and the real meaning of Christmas – Jesus, who is God’s selfless gift to us.

6. You will provide avenues of real transformation and hope.

Now that Operation Christmas Child has been in existence for a while, we are seeing real proof of transformation.  That transformation results in hope for many others.  Khin Khin shares a testimony of how she received a shoebox while living in a New Delhi refugee camp.  Years later, she’s living in Winnipeg, Canada where she helps pack shoeboxes to help bring hope to many more!

“Receiving the shoebox made me realize how a Christian should give for others,” she says. “Some children might not have people who care for them, so for them, it’s encouragement to know they still have other people who care for them and that God is always there for them when they don’t have anybody else.”4

Check out her story here:

In 2014, Canadians packed over 660,000 shoeboxes!  35,000 of those came from here, in Newfoundland, alone!  Let’s partner together and reach new heights in 2015!  Samaritans Purse is challenging Canada to collect 710,000 this year!  That’s only a 7.5% increase.  If we do our part in Newfoundland, we’ll need to collect 37,625 this year!  We can do it together!

By packing a shoebox we can join together to help kids around world, remind ourselves about giving, and help provide avenues of real transformation and hope!


Find a collection center near you…

http://www.samaritanspurse.ca/rss/operation-christmas-child/get-involved/find-an-operation-christmas-child-collection-center.aspx#.VgxetvlVhBc


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