When Disaster Strikes, God Is There in You

Dear Friend,

Few images strike at the heart more than those of innocent people trying to cope with disaster.

A family loses its home to a forest fire. A tornado tears apart a woman’s business. A young daughter is orphaned when a building collapses in an earthquake. A parent mourns a son lost to a flood. An entire community watches, stunned, as a typhoon sweeps away their village. A farmer looks over a barren field, knowing that drought has robbed him of that season’s harvest.

We do not know why these disasters occur. We can only bow with humility before the mystery that is eternity. And we know with the certainty of our faith that God is in every one of them.

You find God in the helping hands that emerge from every corner. You find God in the sense of community once lost and now so suddenly found. You find God in the words of comfort and encouragement.

You find Catholic Relief Services at the scene of disasters around the world because you, the Catholic community in the United States, tell us that God is there. That is where we all must be—helping, comforting, encouraging.

Through CRS, you are there whether the disaster is big or small, whether it dominates the headlines and television news or is hardly ever mentioned by the media.

It is truly a miracle to find the seed of hope—planted in what looks like the barren ground of despair—grow into a tree bearing the fruit of health, of life, of prosperity. But it happens in these disasters, because God is there.

At CRS, we see that miracle at work all the time. For CRS, it is not enough to show up for the disaster relief and leave. We stay. God is there. We are there. We see the miracle of new houses where a tsunami once scoured the landscape bare. We see the miracle of new construction where an earthquake left only rubble. We see new bridges where floods had cut off communities. We see fertile fields where drought had stunted crops.

What is so important to know is that you also find God in the disasters that did not happen. You find God when drought strikes, yet the farmers have seeds they bought at a CRS seed fair—seeds that require less rainfall. You find God when the heavy rains lash the hillsides, yet the topsoil is not washed away because of effective erosion control implemented through a CRS-directed cash-for-work project. You find God when a hurricane strikes, yet families are safe in CRS-built shelters designed to withstand storms. You find God when families are cut off by a flood, yet they have food to eat and water to drink because CRS, anticipating shortages, has readied supplies .

At CRS, we call this disaster risk reduction. Sometimes it means organizing communities so that they put plans in place before a storm approaches, or issue warnings and take steps to get everyone to safety. Sometimes it even means teaching people how to make flotation devices out of empty soda bottles.

Wherever and whenever there is need, we hear and heed God’s call to reach out, to use the gifts he has given us, to trust in his power, to step up and bring his hope.

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO

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