“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Your laws are always right; help me understand them so that I might live.” Psalm 119:143-144
There are days when I wonder how people who do not know Jesus and do not have the Holy Spirit make it through. Today was one of those days for me.
One of our church families, a couple in their sixties with the wife’s mother living with them, was displaced by flooding during the heavy rain that fell on the Sunday after Hurricane Ike. The drains were clogged with debris and their home took several inches of water. They went through the same problem back in 2002 during tropical storm Allison. The husband is disabled, does not walk steadily, and can’t drive. Their home was declared unliveable, so with Red Cross benefits, they moved into a hotel room. Today, they discovered that they were turned down by FEMA for assistance. There is no apparent reason for this, but now they must dig into their savings to come up with enough money to get contractors started on their house. Their church family, of course, will help. I decided on my own to pick up the phone and call FEMA, and discovered, much to my frustration, that it is impossible to get a human being on the other end of the phone, and leaving a message means you may wait up to a month to hear something.
Another problem people here are facing relates to unemployment benefits. The storm put a lot of hourly workers out of a job for a while. There is an emergency fund available for those who lose their jobs temporarily as a result of natural disasters. Today, I was told that unless you were out of work for more than a week, you cannot receive any assistance. A week’s pay makes the difference between making it and breaking it for some people. Here is a fund we pay into, but when we need the benefit, we can’t get it.
I spent most of the morning walking our church campus with the contractor we engaged to repair storm damage. He wanted to scope out the work and check the insurance company’s damage and replacement estimates. The adjustor who came two days after the hurricane did a sloppy, hurried job and tried to favor the insurance company. It was depressing to think that someone in that business would come in and try to cut corners for a company involved in one of the most lucrative businesses in terms of profit. We found a lot of damage that the adjustor missed.
The six o’clock news tonight was also not good. The stock market has shrunk 39% in the past few weeks, and that’s scary. People are losing investments and retirement benefits right and left. The country and the world are well inside the boundaries of a genuine economic crisis. I don’t have a pile of retirement benefits accumulated, and most of what I have is in fairly secure funds, but I am grieving tonight with many individuals who are facing severe financial loss as a result of what is happening.
But, thank God, we have prayer, we have the Spirit, we belong to Christ, and we have each other in the church. During times of crisis, God’s people draw even closer together. Hopefully, as we lean on each other, we will bring other people into the fold to take comfort in what we know to be truth.