September 18, 2008

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

2008 has been an extraordinary year of disasters, nationally and internationally. This week, our television screens are filled with scenes of destruction from Hurricane Ike. We are confronted almost weekly with news of another tornado, earthquake, cyclone, flood or hurricane. It seems there is hardly time to prayerfully respond to one crisis before another makes headlines.

Our hearts break as we see image after image of homes destroyed, communities uprooted and lives torn apart.

Just as we did during the chaotic times of the Tsunami and Katrina, where recovery efforts continue, we turn to the Scriptures for comfort. The words of Psalm 46 remind us of God’s constant care in the midst of tumultuous times:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

God is indeed present, even in the midst of the most difficult of times. God has been present as the Church, in countless ways, has been the visible witness of Christ to individuals and communities devastated by these disasters.

Haiti, which has been pummeled by four named storms this summer, is still reeling after Ike. Hundreds have died, whole communities have been obliterated and crops destroyed in a nation that is already extremely vulnerable. PCUSA mission personnel, church partners and other aid organizations are working as quickly as possible to offer support to thousands who are seeking to restore some order to an absolutely catastrophic situation.

Residents of Texas and Louisiana, as well as those throughout the Ohio Valley, have also been hard hit by the storms. As of September 17, as many as four million people are without electricity, access to drinking water and food. The Presbyterian Church is present, providing leadership in assessing damage, and providing spiritual and physical support to those in greatest need.

Even as we hear the updates from these most recent disasters, we are mindful that we are still engaged in long term recovery from the 2005 hurricanes that hit the gulf, the cyclone that overwhelmed Myanmar/Burma, the China earthquake and the tornadoes and flooding that consumed parts of the Midwest this summer.

It is clear that the road to recovery will be challenging. You can learn how the church is helping with recovery, and what you can do, by visiting www.pcusa.org/pda.

We invite you to join us in walking with all who have been impacted by these uncanny events. Your prayers and support will serve as a constant reminder that the Lord of Hosts is indeed present in the church, the body of Christ.

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Moderator of the 218th General Assembly

Elder Linda Bryant Valentine
Executive Director, General Assembly Council

The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

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