Over the last few weeks we’ve watched on as the city of Houston has been experiencing the disastrous effects from Hurricane Harvey. In the coming weeks, as the rains cease and the flooding subsides, relief efforts will be vast, and the people of Houston will need support to recover. In the wake of unprecedented disasters like Harvey, Christ has called His Church stand in solidarity with our suffering neighbors.

Throughout history, God has used the Church to bring relief, comfort, and hope to others during times of disaster. In 165 AD, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a devastating epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. The mortality was so high in many cities that Marcus Aurelius spoke of caravans of carts and wagons hauling the dead from cities. In all, during the fifteen-year duration of the epidemic, from a quarter to a third of the empire’s population died. In the wake of this disaster, Rome was completely ill-prepared to help the sick or deal with mass death.

The people living in Rome knew that their priests were clueless as to why the gods had sent so much misery to earth, or whether the gods were involved or even cared. Since pagans had no belief in immortality, and Stoicism demeaned any sort of heartfelt compassion, the plagues were meaningless and cruel. To make matters worse, since the very best Greco-Roman scientists and doctors knew of no way to treat epidemics other than to avoid contact with those affected. As a result, almost all folks who were healthy and able to help others evacuated Rome out of fear.

In stark contrast to such hopelessness and fear, the Christians responded to this epidemic by staying in Rome to care for those who suffered. For them, Jesus’ life of love and sacrifice was a model they were willing to follow; even if it involved getting sick and dying to show Christ’s love to their neighbors.

As the pagans witnessed this kind of love in action, the Gospel began to spread like wildfire across the Roman Empire. In the end, that’s why our Church is sending volunteer teams and funds to help local churches care for hurricane victims in Houston. We believe the Church is at its best when it is a beacon of love and hope to our hurting world.

To find out more how you can help with ongoing relief efforts in Houston click here.