*“I don’t understand how you can believe in a loving God in the face of what we’re seeing on the news right now,” said Bob Norman, bringing the small talk to a halt. In that informal way they had, the God-Talk Club was now in session!
“It is difficult, isn’t it?” said Jerry to the group as a whole. Bob looked surprised at Jerry’s response.
“You do believe in a loving God, though?” said Bob, making it a question by his tone.
“Well, yes. But I don’t believe that I have all the answers.”
“You’ve just shattered Bob’s impression of fundamentalists,” said Mandy.
“I’m not a fundamentalist,” Jerry retorted. “I’m conservative, I’m evangelical, I’m orthodox. I’m not a fundamentalist.”
“But Bob thinks you are,” Mandy insisted.
“I bet Bob thinks you are a fundamentalist,” said Jerry. “Don’t you?” he continued, turning to Bob.
“Well yes,” said Bob. “I have a hard time telling the difference between you various religious people. There’s always the fact that you believe in God and I don’t. That’s such a large difference that distinguishing one denomination from another just takes too much energy.”
“Hmmm! Me as a fundamentalist. That takes some getting used to.” Mandy managed to combine shock and innocence in her look.
“But all this doesn’t answer my question,” said Bob. “Just how do you deal with it?”
“It’s difficult for me, I admit,” said Jerry after a pause. “I know that God is the creator. I know that He takes responsibility for everything (Isaiah 45:7). But just because I admit it’s difficult doesn’t mean I don’t have any sort of answer. It just means it’s difficult!”
“So give,” said Bob. “Do you believe God is punishing Haiti for its sins, like Pat Robertson?”
“Well, I believe Amos 3:6 -‘Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?’ (ESV) God is responsible for everything, which makes the question difficult. But unlike Pat Robertson, apparently, I believe that God has as much against this town as he has against Haiti. Rather than thinking that God did this to Haiti, I think it happens because this is a sinful, dangerous world, and thus such disasters are possible. It was Haiti this time. It might be a tornado coming right through this building next time.”
“But how does that make God a loving God?” asked Bob.
“It doesn’t. I believe God is a loving God because He is with each and every person in disaster. He doesn’t prevent it, but he goes through it with us. He’s right there.”
“I think the way God shows his love is through us,” said Justine. “My church already has a team ready to leave. We’re just waiting for the right moment. Our folks are builders, and they won’t be needed for a few days, so we don’t want to go in too early.”
“I always wonder about these church teams,” said Mac. “Amateurs can mess up the works.”
“I expect that from Bob, but not from you!” said Justine. “How do you know we’re amateurs? In fact, we have a very qualified team and they’ll be going in with all the proper support, coordinated with the proper authorities. I don’t know the details, but we’ve taken years building a properly certified response team.”
“I’m sorry Justine,” said Mac. “I didn’t realize. I had just heard of a group driving into the country from the Dominican Republic that hadn’t done their homework. Fortunately they were turned back. That kind of people just get in the way.”
“I heard that some Christian groups are sending in pastors. What do these people need with pastors? They need food and water, not to mention getting dug out of the rubble!” Bob was looking annoyed again.
“I think that’s a pretty narrow attitude,” said Mandy. “Why do we send grief counselors in after a disaster? People need more than physical relief. I agree there must be some priority, but many of the Haitians are Catholic. I think last rites would be important to them.”
“I don’t mean to deny people their comforting superstitions,” said Bob. “But I wouldn’t want to contribute to it.”
“Surely you don’t let that stop you from giving,” said Jerry. “I know you’re plain-spoken to the point of being rude, but I think you really care.”
“Oh, there’s a good answer to that. Richard Dawkins has created a fund for us infidels to give to. It’s called Non-Believers Giving Aid. That way we can give without supporting religious organizations.”
“That’s great,” said Ellen. “I was wondering if you had anything like that. I’ve given through my church (LDS Aid).”
“I’ve given through my home church,” said Mark (UMCOR).
“Me too,” said Jerry (PCA-MNA).
“Our church as well,” said Mandy (PCUSA).
“I went with the same option as Bob,” said Mac.
“So now that we know we’re all doing something, with Justine admittedly in the lead with an actual team, what more can be done?” asked Bob.
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Nobody wanted to say “Give more money.” It wasn’t that they didn’t want to. Pretty much everyone planned on doing that as soon as they could. It just didn’t seem to meet the need. They suddenly felt that the God-Talk Club needed to do something specific.
“OK, I’ll start it. Justine, is there a way I can give to your team without it going to pay for a chaplain? That’s just not something I’m willing to do.”
“I can understand that. I’m going, but I happen to be qualified to do several tasks that are required by the team. I might preach if I’m invited, but that’s not the purpose of the team. We’ll be working on housing. I could designate your money to buy building materials.” She paused. “You all do understand we’re not part of he initial response. It could be weeks before we go in. It depends on what priorities others set.”
“Yes, we understand that.” Bob pulled out a checkbook and started writing. “I’m taking your word on how this is spent,” he added.
In a minute Jerry’s check joined Bob’s. “I doubt the two of you have ever donated to the same cause before,” said Mac.
“Doubtless you’re right, and it’s even more surprising that it’s a project for Justine’s church. But this feels right.”
Nobody noticed that Ellen had left until she returned with a couple of other waitresses carrying large plastic cups. The manager followed.
“This lady here, a regular at our cafe, is going to be taking a team to help rebuild in Haiti. We’re going to pass around these cups, and I know you will all be generous.”
[While this post is a work of fiction, the aid agencies referenced (except, of course, for Justine’s fictional church) and linked are real and are actively engaged in Haiti relief. I do believe that the fictional people in my God-Talk Club stand for many millions who are doing their little bit to aid the people of Haiti. Find a trustworthy agency to support, or a person or team that is going to do the work on the ground and give them your support.]