As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the United States this year, the holiday is a good time to remember that thanks and giving properly go together. For God’s gracious gifts to us, we give thanks. The expression "say grace" means giving thanks. Because we are thankful, we give to others in need. The circle is completed when those to whom we give, themselves give thanks to God. This year we enjoy our Thanksgiving against a world background that includes horrific destruction in the Philippines, resulting in incalculable human suffering and loss. I invite you to join me in asking God how, where, and to what extent he wishes for us personally to combine our thanks with giving. Perhaps the following paragraphs will be, for someone, a medium for the answer.
November 7, 2013 ~ On the provincial island of Leyte in the Philippine eastern seaboard, evening shadows dance briefly and dissolve into the encroaching night. Typhoon Haiyan is headed this way. Filipinos call it Hurricane Yolanda. Some meteorologists later will call it the largest storm in recorded human history. It will impact thirteen million people across forty provinces, claim more than 5,000 lives, and displace 4.33 million more.
November 8, 2013 ~ Yolanda makes landfall. Walls of ocean water traveling up to 200 miles per hour slam directly into the Philippine Islands. Storm surges as tall as two-story buildings sweep away entire villages, leaving not a single trace. Like some ancient conqueror in quest of empire, this invader made of wind and water rips its victims away from their natural kin, ravaging what it leaves behind. Survivors face a severely damaged infrastructure, including systems for delivering electricity and fresh water. Communications and sanitation are almost entirely gone.
November 27, 2013 ~ Three weeks have now gone by and the Filipinos still need our help. Relief agencies are physically present and are settling into place. Besides the larger ones, you might like to know about Shepherds Hill, a nonprofit organization led by Dr. Mike O’Neal, former president of Oklahoma Christian University. Filipino gospel man Salvador Cariaga, a church leader, community developer, and gracEmail subscriber (cariaga or www.facebook.com/cariaga), coordinates his own relief efforts with Shepherds Hill, whom he highly recommends. Salvador is a nephew of veteran Filipino church leader and gracEmail subscriber Felix Bravo, whom I have known for fifty years. You can donate to Shepherds Hill online here (your credit card company takes 3.9% for handling), or by post to PO Box 11000, Oklahoma City, OK 73136 (100% of your check donation goes for relief).