Before I start, I’d like to clarify that clearly this list isn’t everything that can help, and it’s not absolutely exclusive to Christians. I target Christians here because we often are called out for not acting, and with a majority of our readership being so close to the tragedy, it would be shameful to see the same happen again.
I encourage you to list other ideas in the comments.
You likely know that wildfires have recently spread throughout Sevier County, specifically Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, leaving businesses destroyed, homes ruined, people missing and victims dead.
Many are taking action and in good ways. However, unlike the rest of the world, Christians can act in a way that may create eternal effects, so, without further ado, here are four ways Christians can help cure Gatlinburg pain:
1. Pray for Gatlinburg.
You may have rolled your eyes at this one because it seems so obvious. So obvious, in fact that, #PrayforGatlinburg is showing up every few minutes on Twitter. This is a great start, but, it takes more than tweeting to make a difference.
It seems that every time a tragedy happens, people are quick to start #Prayfor_____, but let’s not forget the actual power of prayer because it’s not something to be taken lightly. We’re talking to the God of the Universe. Jesus tells us in Matthew 21* that, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
When we pray, though, let’s not simply pray for healing, firefighters and families (Pray for them!) but also for God to ultimately be uplifted through the situation. Spiritual healing often comes in the form of physical pain, and Gatlinburg is no exception.
However, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, “It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.” In other words, creating change doesn’t stop with prayer.
2. Support a local church.
The Tennessean reported Wednesday that the American Red Cross has momentarily stopped receiving physical donations for Gatlinburg, but many churches in East Tennessee collected items like toothbrushes, soap and clothing for the families affected by the wildfires.
It’s imaginable they will accept physical donations again, and while we are preparing for them to accept, Christians can easily help by spending a couple dollars to buy something like toothbrushes. If you go to a church of just 100 people, your family can make a huge impact for Sevier County.
100 people x 3 toothbrushes = 300 sets of clean teeth
Also, some churches are collecting money to help. If your church is not, American Red Cross, the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief and many other organizations are accepting monetary donations online.
And, although I haven’t seen this, it would be awesome to see East Tennessee churches connect with Gatlinburg churches to help with the costs of starting over.
3. Continually remember those affected.
Unfortuently, like every other tragedy, people will slowly forget. Think of Paris. Louisiana. Dallas. Central Italy. Orlando. You know what I’m talking about, but it’s likely you haven’t thought much about those events recently. Soon, Gatlinburg will be on that list.
But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, eventually, the physical donations won’t be necessary, and they may not need as much money in the future. Still, full recovery will take years. For those who have lost loved ones, the healing may never end.
During the time of rebuilding, Christians must remember Seveir County citizens. We will still need to pray for and support them just as much then as we are now.
The rest of the world may forget, but Christians cannot. To show love to them, we have to be continually caring and long-suffering. Imagine the opportunities to show Christ’s love through remembrance 6 months after the fires are ceased.
4. Help rebuild.
Church members, youth groups, pastors, hear me out on this one: make a “mission trip” out of rebuilding. We can go overseas and different states and do awesome work there, but there’s something in our backyard that needs the love of the Church. Let’s focus there!
After this is over, families will need help rebuilding houses; churches will want their sanctuaries back. We can physically help there, and if you’re not anything close to a carpenter like me, we can still find ways to physically support. Maybe we can just carry boards, stack chairs, hammer a nail or whatever. There will be something.
We can help businesses, by doing what all good East Tennesseans do – enjoying Gatlinburg. We can go to giant Christmas stores. We can go play putt-putt. We can go stay in cabins. It doesn’t have to be hard to help, and it doesn’t have to be a lot.
I know that non-Christians can do most of actions on this list, but it’s not the same. For regular people, the motive is to do the right thing or to help others, but for Christians, there’s a chance that, even through this muck and pain, people will understand Jesus at a deeper level. Let’s not forget Who is in control.
Pray for Gatlinburg.
*This doesn’t mean you don’t have faith. Explanation
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Cover Photo: Bruce Tuten