One of the greatest strengths of the American people is that when tragedy strikes, whole communities rise up and help one another, in the spirit of “loving their neighbour as themselves”, showing compassion and a willingness to help those who are in trouble. I won’t forget the image of a local pastor, chest deep in water, pulling a boat with a rope and going house to house to rescue people who were trapped inside their homes when flood waters ravaged Houston, in Texas.
In 2016, a British newspaper, the ‘Independent,’ said this about the people of the United States: “America has been named as the world’s most generous nation in the world, where it’s citizens give the most to charity, according to a new report.” The report was released by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). Charitable giving by individuals as a percentage of GDP in America was recorded at 1.44%, in New Zealand it was 0.79%, in Canada at 77% and the United Kingdom came fourth globally at 0.54%.
That same year, confirmation of these statistics came from the new Almanac of American Philanthropy found that Americans out donated both Great Britain and Canada two-to-one and nations like Italy and Germany by two-to-one. What’s more, more than half of every single income class except those earning less than $25,000 donate to charity, according to the survey. Americans give – locally, nationally and internationally. They are doers of the word. According to Bible Study.com: “ The Lord Jesus expects and requires us to give. Jesus said to His disciples, “when you give” not “if you give” (Matthew 6:2)! Hence, Christian giving is not optional, but rather essential. We often hear folks say: “in the Old Testament they had to give, but not in the New – now we only give if we want to.” This is clearly not Jesus’ teaching. He expected all His followers to be givers. Christians will give. ” I think the spirit of giving and the spirit of compassion is reflected in the statistic that the United States of America is one of the most generous countries in the world. Quite simply, the people of America give.
I was a first hand witness to this in the summer of 2018. We were back in London, in the United Kingdom when the Carr Fire broke out. BBC News and Sky News had sent television crews to the City of Redding – the news story topped their bulletins and we saw how the Carr Fire spread quickly. The Carr Fire was one of the largest fires in Northern California in 2018, burning 229,651 acres of land, destroying 1,604 structures of which 1,077 were homes, killing several people include two firefighters and little children. It was heart breaking. The fire devastated parts of Redding, causing 38,000 people to be evacuated.
As the fire raged, there was a wave of prayer from around the globe for the City of Redding. God TV sent a worldwide message in July 2018:
“We at GOD TV stand with our brothers and sisters at Bethel Church in intercession and we ask you to do the same.
- Peace to California and to those near fire.
- Wisdom and safety for firefighters and officials.
- Rain and the ceasing of wind, the smoke to clear for full visibility, no lightning strikes.
- Total and complete containment. “
“God, we invite You to come and bring healing and divine intervention to this situation, and to the fires burning throughout California. You are faithful, and You are sovereign over the weather. Bring restoring rains, and protect this land.”
We made our way back into Redding, the skies were thick with smoke from the Carr Fire. We had to wear masks. The people of Redding were galvanised into action. Bethel Church is the largest church in the City of Redding. Initially they were asked not to open their doors by the Redding Fire Department because there was only one road that led to the church and there was no escape route in case the fire reached the church.
However when the church was given the green light by the Fire Department partnering with the Salvation Army in Redding, Bethel Church became a distribution centre helping and supporting all those who were devastated by the fire. The community responded with love – churches in Redding, voluntary organisations, others provided counselling services and a whole army of volunteers helped at the church, giving thousands of free meals, I saw a Safeway refrigeration truck for the food and people reached out by giving money. Everything was distributed to those who had lost all their possessions from water bottles to pillows. This was partnership working at its best.
There were ministry teams praying in the Sanctuary with people who had come to seek emotional support. They were in tears. This was compassion in action to those who were suffering. The senior pastors at Bethel Church wrote to churches around the United States and across the world. Millions of US dollars started coming in. Churches around the world just gave in love. Bethel Church was able to give $1,000 to every family who had lost their home and fund the whole outreach to people affected by the Carr Fire. This was truly deep compassion for their community and I was a witness to all of this in Redding.
Some gave with their lives, the highest sacrifice to their local community. Two fire fighters were killed in the blaze. A friend of mine and I attended the funeral service of Redding Fire Inspector, Jeremy Stoke, held at the Civic Auditorium. The whole community came together, to pay their respects. It was a very dignified occasion. The Redding Fire Department Chief Chaplain led the service and the ushers were all chaplains who were there to celebrate the life of Jeremy Stoke who paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to save others. It was very moving. The Carr Fire in Redding brought out the best in people. Many gave much needed funds to those who were suffering. Incidentally, according to GoFundMe in their report on the most generous US cities in the nation, based on donations per capita, the City of Redding came fourth – in the Top Ten. I can well believe that. Compassion to action.
As 2018 closes let’s re-visit that prayer from God TV. The rains came and peace has come down over the city. The firefighters are safe. The skies are clear. There was total containment of not one but two fires in Northern California. In the Scriptures, Zachariah, Chapter 13:verse 9 says this: “They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’
Photographs courtesy of Pexels and Wikipedia