The news out of the Middle East this week is of a tragic scope beyond comprehension. Thousands dead, millions impacted, and complicating factor upon factor hindering rescue and recovery. Many of the places impacted were already heavily reliant upon humanitarian aid, so the calls for giving are now magnified. Both the United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church have avenues for direct giving. The UMC’s Committee on Relief (UMCOR) reported Tuesday that they had already released an initial solidarity grant to a longstanding partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC), which has offices in Turkey and will provide tents, heaters, blankets, warm clothes, ready-to-eat meals, and first aid kits.
Still, we cannot deny that these moments lay bare our human limitations and frailty. While the headlines may disappear from our news feeds faster than they should, for millions, life will now be spoken of in terms of “before” and “after” this event.
While few of us may have experienced something quite this drastic, many of us might point to a moment in our or our family’s history that marked cataclysmic change: a natural disaster, a war, an accident, a death, a relocation, an abrupt ending to a pattern of life that was taken for granted. Sometimes the change is instantly realized; in other cases, it unfolds over time. Sometimes, we can speak openly of these turning points; other times, they are too painful to mention at all.
Living in the “after” is something for which there seems to be no roadmap, or—perhaps more accurately—is something for which we must each find our own roadmap. Even when we live through a large-scale trauma—like COVID or an earthquake—together with many others, we find ourselves using different strategies to sift through the rubble, to make sense of what was and what might yet be.
This can sometimes complicate the process of recovery; we might feel alone in our experiences as we watch others respond differently to similar events. But the reality is that all approaches are needed when it comes to living into the after. We need those who spring into logistical action, and those who make space to grieve. Those who send aid from away, and those who put hands and feet and skills to good use on the ground. Those who pray faithfully that pathways forward would be found, and those who become the manifold answers to those prayers.
And so if we are able to give, we give. If we are able to pray, please pray. And if we need some time and space to reel from aftershocks in our own afters, may God grant us the comfort and grace to do so.
With a mourning heart,