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"When the Storms of Life Are Raging"

The powerful 1905 hymn by Charles A. Tindley sounds like it was written for 2013:

When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me (stand by me);
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me (stand by me);
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou Who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me (stand by me).

The storms of life raged last week in the Philippines, and the full extent of the damage and loss of life there is still being determined. During our Council of Bishops meeting last week, we prayerfully sent home some of our Philippine bishops to work with their people on recovering from that awful storm.

The storms of life raged yesterday in many towns here in Indiana, as severe weather and tornados flew through our state and caused much damage, but thankfully no deaths were reported. I was in Kokomo at the time, participating the North Central District Rally for Africa University at Kokomo St. Luke's church. We had to evacuate the sanctuary and gather in enclosed hallways (they don't have a basement) while a tornado passed less than a mile from us. We were all OK, but there is a great deal of damage in Kokomo (and other towns like Lebanon and Lafayette).

How shall we respond when "the storms of life are raging" around us? First, we pray, and that is what we did yesterday and what the hymn reminds us to do -- we pray for The Lord to "stand by me" and everyone during such storms.

Second, we give and support and help others. Already UMCOR has established a fund for our monetary gifts to help the people of the Philippines. You are welcome to send special offerings for the Philippines to our Indiana Conference treasurer and mark them for the Philippines (and 100% of those gifts goes through to help the people, because our UMC connectional system pays for any overhead and administration).

I don't know yet if we will need to call for funds for response to yesterday's storms here in Indiana. Our Conference Disaster Response Team is meeting this morning (they already had that meeting planned for other agenda items, but now they have a new agenda). If and when they seek funds to help with disaster response, I know that our Indiana churches will respond generously.

Third, we United Methodists focus upon "recovery." Disaster response really has three phases which I call "rescue, relief, and recovery," "Rescue" is best done by professionals like EMT and police and fire officers. "Relief" is assigned to groups like Red Cross and Salvation Army, although many other churches and community groups help, too. But "recovery" -- the long-term process of helping people put their lives back together, to rebuild, and to restore hope -- that is where our UMC is most effective. I have been involved in many disaster response efforts, and always our UMC is still there working to help people long after other groups have gone home.

This third response of "recovery" is how we help people to know that their prayer "stand by me" is answered partly through us. Just as The Lord stands by our side when we go through a variety of storms of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual), so too we who follow The Lord also stand by those who need help and support.

I pray that everyone impacted by these recent storms of life will find their prayer answered:

"When the storms of life are raging, stand by me." May it be so.