“Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, 100% of your gift is spent on relief efforts.”

Our attention has turned to Houston and the nearly 2.5 million people that live within that city. We listen with dread to reports that the storm has stalled along the Gulf Coast only to return with a second and third assault. Flood waters are rising to levels never recorded in our nation’s history. But, wreckage and suffering are not the only story.  News footage shows neighbors carrying the elderly in their arms through high waters and small fishing boats scattered across the flooded landscape with local residents becoming first responders.

One of Jesus’ most quoted teachings is “to love your neighbor as yourself” and in this storm, Texans are showing us how it is done.  When Jesus spoke these words, he was reminding the religious leaders of his day that this is the second most important commandment. The first is to “love the Lord our God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  The love for God and neighbor, he taught, are inextricably bound, and this is never more true than when we help the suffering.

But, in times like this how do we honor these commands? How do we love our Texas neighbors? What is the best way for us to contribute to the recovery?  If we were to drive to Houston, ready to lend a hand, we would only add to the chaos and further stretch a city far too short on water, food and shelter. The TV flickers with stunning images and we feel overwhelmed, helpless.

Yet, we do have resources at our disposal . The first is prayer. This is how we bring God to the world. Prayer is the church’s first line of work. It is what we do. Communities can overcome the worst of crisis as long as the human spirit does not falter. Prayer is the antidote. Pray for the victims and those on the front lines of the rescue efforts.

The second way we can help is through a financial gift. We sometimes sidestep money in a crisis and imagine more heroic forms of service, but when everything you own is floating down a swollen river you need financial help to recover. That said, be sure to give smartly. Rather than throwing change in a charity bucket passed around the office, give through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. It could be argued that this agency is the brightest gem of the United Methodist Church.

Through UMCOR, 100% of your gift is spent on relief efforts. The Administrative costs are paid for by the yearly special offering, One Great Hour of Sharing, and by the apportionment of every United Methodist congregation. It is one of the most effective ways by which donations reach the people in need. The UMCOR partners work with the local congregations and community-funded agencies that have made their home in the heart of the disaster. And because they are not a drop-in agency, the work of the church remains long after the crises have left the headline news and the nation’s attention has turned elsewhere.

To give to Hurricane Harvey Victims through UMCOR write a check to Memorial United Methodist Church and designate it Disaster Response” or “UMCOR Advance 901670″. We will send the funds on to the Western North Carolina Conference Office or you may give directly through the agency’s website, www.umcor.org.

Prayer and an offering, these are two ways we can help, even before the flood waters recede.