August 31, 2017
“Houston, we have a problem.”
These words were spoken by astronaut Jim Lovell on April 13, 1970. Nearly 56 hours into the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, Lovell’s crew experienced an explosion aboard their spacecraft that plunged them into a fight for their lives. Lovell’s understated words to NASA’s command center in Houston belied the disastrous consequences unfolding.
In the last week, the roles have reversed. The city of Houston is now the urban equivalent of the Apollo 13 spacecraft. The rest of the country has now become the command center, a lifeline needed to cobble together some creative, hopeful gasps to keep the place in one piece.
Some folks have been around Elmhurst long enough to remember the great Salt Creek flood of 1987. South Elmhurst was deluged in 13 inches of rain. People boated and canoed down Butterfield Road and around the property where our church is now located. I experienced a 13-inch rain storm in coastal Michigan a decade ago. Bridges were washed out. Immense sandy beaches along Lake Michigan were swept away. Just six years ago, nine inches of rain were enough to flood the basement of Elmhurst CRC. It boggles my mind that parts of Houston have received more than 48 inches of rain. I struggle to imagine. What can I do? What can we do?
I’m pleased to share that our deacons have approved the receiving of a special Sunday offering over the next month to support the work of World Renew, an organization born from within the Christian Reformed Church. World Renew specializes in disaster relief and community development work. World Renew will be expert, Christ like hands and feet on the ground in Texas. Sharing resources with them is a great way to help.
I serve with a musical organization called Credo, which is organizing a free concert of classical music in downtown Cleveland to benefit the American Red Cross. I love the idea that some well-intentioned northern musicians “playing” can help our brothers and sisters in Texas in some small, tangible way.
A reporter from the BBC News wrote this about the outcome of the Apollo 13 mission: “Although the mission was not a success from a conventional perspective, it was a triumph of ingenuity and determination.” In an article called “From Disaster to Triumph,” Chicago’s own Jim Lovell said that Apollo 13 “showed the people of the world that if there was a great catastrophe, it could be turned into success.” This sounds an awful lot like the gospel to me. The ultimate example of triumph coming out of apparent catastrophe is Jesus’ cross and grave. Redemption from disaster. Mending and healing from broken things. We pray for this gospel power to be in the work of the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Texas--and in the very structure of things.
But of course, even as we focus on Houston, tragedies continue around the globe. As I’m writing on August 30th, I’ve just become aware of massive flooding in Mumbai and parts of Northern India. Some reports are saying that more than 1,000 people have already lost their lives.
Lord, have mercy. What can we do? We do what we can. We pray. We give. We share. And we trust that the body of Christ is being the body of Christ in every corner of creation.
You can’t do everything. You can’t even care about everything. But you can do a little something in your corner of creation. Are you clear on what it might be? Are you open to it? Do you have the heart for it?
By God’s grace, each of us does.
Peace in these Meantimes,