Feb. 11, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
�God, Why?� is a study resource that explores God�s presence following natural disasters.
By Linda Green*
Tenn. (UMNS) — When people experience tragedy or loss, the questions
often asked are: Why did God allow it to happen? Why did it happen to
me? Where was God?
Those questions swirl in the aftermath of any catastrophe such as the Dec. 26 tsunami that struck Asia and Africa.
Methodist Communications has produced a new resource to help
individuals, study groups and congregations address those hard questions
and understand how God is present in difficult times. The resource,
"God, Why? Teachings from the Tsunamis," offers insights from bishops,
theologians, pastors and others in a two-session, small-group study
communications agency, in cooperation with the United Methodist Board
of Discipleship, developed the resource as a DVD/CD package that
includes video, a study guide, worship materials and other resources. It
is available for pre-purchase at www.umc.org, the denomination’s official Web site.
resource will give people practical, spiritual answers to questions
about God’s activity when disasters occur, says the Rev. Larry Hollon,
top executive at United Methodist Communications.
Through the video,
the church is making a prophetic statement, Hollon says. "At a time of
great loss and great instability, I believe it’s very important for the
church to be heard. The church speaks a word of hope. It helps to say
that with God’s help, we will get through this trauma, and that is a
very important word that we deliver to the people not only in the church
but to people in the world."
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Men in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, pick through the ruins of a supermarket after the earthquake and tsunami.
the video, Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Area notes that "there is
danger in trying to lay claim to certain hard fixed answers,
particularly in the face of tragedy." If any lesson can be learned from
the tsunami and other tragedies, it is that humans live in a fragile
world—and a world that is awesome, Palmer says.
so more than trying to fix an answer as to, ‘OK, why did this happen,
God?’ I’ve tried to bow myself before the majesty of God and to say, I
acknowledge and I honor and I humble myself before the reality of
nature, and accept the fact that we don’t have all the answers and that
maybe I’m not destined to know all of the answers specifically.
I’m not going to be immobilized from responding with compassion and
grace simply because I don’t have the answers," the bishop says. "I know
in the midst of loss and grief what I’m called to do and what other
people of Christian faith and of good faith are called to do. And that
is to enable the signs of life to burst forth."
Rev. Randy Day, top executive at the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, cites Jesus’ teachings as a guide for responding to people
affected by the tsunami. "And so we’ll reach out in the sense of love
and justice and try to touch as many lives as we can, and try not to be
overwhelmed by numbers and by our own emotions."
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
A hospital patient in Medan, Indonesia, tells how the tsunami destroyed his home in Banda Aceh.
Methodist Church, through its United Methodist Committee on Relief, will
assist the survivors in culturally sensitive ways, Day says in the
video. "We’re going to be there to help people rebuild their lives, to
rebuild these local churches and then relate to these communities with a
sense of vision, with a sense of hope."
sense of events such as the tsunami is "extremely challenging," says
the Rev. Joon-Sik Park, associate professor at Methodist Theological
School in Ohio. "I don’t think anyone has an answer or anyone knows the
answer. No one could explain the presence of suffering and evil in God’s
world. We all struggle to find the presence of God in all that."
why God lets bad thing happen to good people is the "wrong question,"
says Bishop Judith Craig, bishop in residence and visiting professor of
church leadership at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. "I don’t
think the ‘why’ question is the question to ask. I prefer the ‘where’
question. Where is God in all of this?"
the wake of the tsunami and other tragedies, "God’s all over the
place," Craig says. "I think God’s in the tears of the parent that’s
been separated from a child. God’s in the shout of joy of a child that
finds a parent. God’s in the midst of the shattered messes of what were
once homes. God’s in the framework of a new home that’s being built and
helped by people who don’t even speak the same language."
The DVD/ CD resource contains:
- Short video stories of hope amid tragedy.
- A musical PowerPoint presentation of images from South Asia.
- Eighty free-to-use images of the damage caused in Indonesia.
- A collection of news feature stories for use in the local church.
- Bulletin inserts to help raise awareness and funds for United Methodist relief efforts.
- Graphics for church Web sites.
- Worship resources.
- A study guide.
- A three-minute inspirational message (from the "be there" UMCOR project)
- Seven-minute highlights of UMCOR’s work (from the "be there" UMCOR project).
tsunami highlighted humanity’s vulnerability to the forces of nature,
but that vulnerability can be unifying, Hollon says. "If we can respond
to each other at a personal level in a human way, so we provide to each
other a source of strength and a source of hope, then somehow we build a
better community and we make the world a better place."
Rev. Lilanthi Ward, a native of Sri Lanka and pastor of Anderson Hill
United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, stresses the importance of
Christians showing God’s love to those affected by the tsunami.
the worst of times, in the best of times, God’s promised never to leave
us," she says. "And even though we may not feel God’s presence, that
doesn’t mean that God’s not there."
information about the project or to preorder copies of the $19.95 DVD
and CD, call customer service at United Methodist Communications at
(888) 346-3862 or visit the denomination’s Website at www.umc.org.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.