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July 2nd, 2010
08:36 AM ET

Hankering to serve in Gulf Coast, missionaries at a loss

Pastor Jack Kale leads a 'Worship at the Water' service organized last month by Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church in Pensacola, Florida.

The phone calls keep coming at the United Methodist Committee on Relief offices in Washington. National volunteers who turned out by the tens of thousands to help clean up and rebuild destroyed homes after Hurricane Katrina five years ago are desperate to lend a hand again in the face of the Gulf Coast oil spill.

But the problem with this oil disaster, explained the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, who directs UMCOR’s disaster response for the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, is that his organization doesn't know what to tell the would-be missionaries.

“Our phones are ringing, people are wanting to do something, but there’s nothing for them to do,” said Hazelwood, who attended Wednesday’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster Recovery Summit in Long Beach in search of answers.

Hazelwood’s wasn’t the only logoed shirt in the room that featured a cross. Other members of Christian groups, including representatives from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and pastors from regional churches came out to see how they might help.

“Our real opportunity, I guess, is to talk about creation care or caring for our world,” Hazelwood said. “We’re all talking about pollution – and this is a tangible, teachable moment.”

Rabbi Myrna Matsa, who was sent to the region by the New York Board of Rabbis and through a grant from the Jewish Federations of North America, agrees. She came to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and has been doing interfaith work in the area ever since.

“Faith-based groups really made a difference post-Katrina. Spiritually it feeds their sense of being purposeful,” to do a “good deed,” get their “feet in the mud” and assist in the rebuilding process, she said. “But what does it mean to roll up your sleeves? One of the invitations here (during the oil disaster) is to rethink or reframe what it means to help people.”

Perhaps, she suggested, it’s time for faith-based groups to get more involved in, say, environmental advocacy or other organized efforts that don’t fit the traditional definition of mission work.

Rather than doing what makes a volunteer feel good, it’s time to “be open to where the needs are,” she said.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Environment • Faith Now • Interfaith issues

soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. deny jesus

    hey guys! try this denyjesus.com for all your answers to christians

    July 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  2. dude

    Mean telling 15 year old about santa, no. Mean to sit around on this blog all day and call people out, yes.

    Free will and why someone predestined to do bad would be allowed to do bad. Well think of it like a football game. If it's 50-0 at half time, then the you could just stop the game, but better to let the teams play it through anyway. Additionally, you need the bad actors in the show of life, otherwise it wouldn't be much of a challenge.

    Crusades and chocking with the bible. Again, this is not what Jesus would have approved of. Just because the crusaders thought Jesus was with them doesn't mean he was. And he didn't stop them because of free will. What if I say I'm an atheist and go on a killing spree - does that mean atheist are killers? Or that atheism drove me to be a killer?

    I wanted to resist replying (see no eveil, hear no evil, etc) ,but I couldn't. I too have stuggled with not believing. I've hated God and went even further to do like you and rationalize why he could not possibly exist. But in the end, I like to believe in Him. It makes me feel good. It lets me understand things. Even if you come up with the most logical and irrifutable reason ever, then I'll just blame it on the devil and his tricks!!! Your so good, maybe you're a demon and poor coyote123 is being sucked into your trap !!! Maybe he's pre-destined to do so or maybe he isn't and will work through his thoughts and be better because of it.

    July 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  3. coyote123

    I love you David Johnson. See how they run? See how they fly like Lucy in the sky, see how they run? Oink! Oink! I realize it's like shooting helpless fish in a barrel...or whacking a Dodo bird..but you do it with such lovely calm and reason.

    July 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  4. tobyDroid

    How about giving food to the people that are out of work? How about visiting the Businesses that are being hurt by the lack of tourism? There are so many other good ideas that have been mentioned here. Churches and non-profits should focus on the well-being of these folks – physical, mental, spiritual. Some of these people's lives have been devastated.

    July 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  5. michael

    Good for them hands that are not working opens the door of the mouths like David Johnsons.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:41 am |
    • David Johnson

      michael,

      I would be glad to reply to you, but I'm not sharp enough to understand your comment. Explain if you would.

      July 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  6. jimmy

    To my brothers and sisters in the LORD do not be sidetracked by the lack of understanding on the part of the carnal minded. We need to focus on the root of this oil spill. America has shed innocent blood. Do not buy into the garbage of what the GOP,a lot of preachers, fox news...etc are telling you. 911 happend b/c we first shed other people's blood to enrich ourselves. we went to war not b/c of 911 but b/c we were thirsty for more blood. Our #1 enemy is the US gov't. We the believers must pray for the purging of this nation. If we do not; the oil spill would look like child's play compare to the things that are to come. For the people who do not believe that Jesus is who He said He is; I will go to bed tonight mourning and praying for your souls.

    July 12, 2010 at 12:13 am |
    • David Johnson

      WoW dude, that's heavy!

      You said,"Do not buy into the garbage of what the GOP,a lot of preachers, fox news...etc are telling you."

      Excellent advice Jimmy! I don't watch Fox News, or listen to preachers, and I want the fundie driven GOP to evaporate.
      So far you are a prophet!

      You said,"911 happend b/c we first shed other people's blood to enrich ourselves. we went to war not b/c of 911 but b/c we were thirsty for more blood."

      Right, the fact that The 9/11 attack killed 2,973 people, including Americans and foreign nationals, had nothing to do with why we went to war. Heck, we had it coming. God punished us. We should have taken it like a man. Maybe we should have collectively cried out,"Thank you sir, may I have another?"

      You said,"Our #1 enemy is the US gov't."

      I can't go there with you Jimmy. I love our government. Thats why I don't want the separation of church and state to be attacked by the religious right. I want the people taken care of. We need Social Security, Medicare, Child Care and Unemployment. I want Roe Vs. Wade to stand for a 1000 years.

      You said,"For the people who do not believe that Jesus is who He said He is; I will go to bed tonight mourning and praying for your souls."

      Thank you Jimmy for your comment. And someone said, "Religion doesn't poison everything." Hmmm...

      July 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  7. dude

    To David Johnson, and others - you guys are mean. Answer to the "If god is all knowing, we don't have free will, etc". The reason we have the free will thing even though God knows is for our benefit. If you learn a lesson on your own, you will truly learn it and understand. Man must learn the hard way that he cannot govern himself – although we try, we must stubbornly learn that we are just humans. You seem to know quite a bit about Christianity (searching to find holes in it), but one day when you are 90, maybe you will finally give in and realize the truth. Crusades -Jesus would never have approved - killing a a child with a bible (that you found somewhere and mentioned) Jesus would never have approved, whatever else you use to pervert Christianity - Jesus would not have approved and is just a sinner who happened to have been a Christian same as one committed a crime and happened to have been a lumberjack. Bottom line is that if we were all TRUE Christians, then the world would be perfect. Try to live like Jesus for just one day, be nice, forgive all, try to love all - you'll see how great it feels to be good.

    July 11, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Dude,

      Is it mean to finally tell your 15 year old that there really is no Santa? Would it be better to let him continue believing a lie? Atheists only want the religious to realize there is no Sky Daddy. Sometimes, truth hurts.

      You said,"The reason we have the free will thing even though God knows is for our benefit. If you learn a lesson on your own, you will truly learn it and understand. Man must learn the hard way that he cannot govern himself – although we try, we must stubbornly learn that we are just humans."

      If god were all knowing, he would "know" even before we were conceived, whether we would be saved or damned at the end of our lives. What would be the point in letting a person be born, knowing they will someday begin their UNAVOIDABLE sentence of being burned alive forever? We aren't talking Ward Cleaver here. Burning for eternity is a pretty stiff lesson.
      Remember, god's being omniscient requires him to have perfect and complete knowledge. This perfect and complete knowledge requires future events to be predetermined. If you have a choice between coffee and tea, you actually do not have a choice. God must already know which one you will take, and it can be no other way, or he isn't all knowing.

      If you cross "all knowing" off the list of god's attributes, You can have free will. Otherwise, you have predestination.
      The Calvinists believe this predestination thing. The Westboro Baptist Church believes only a few people, of all who have lived and will live, will be saved. The rest are born to go to hell. And god is okay with it.

      Jesus made predictions about Peter and Judas. Both did as Jesus predicted they would.

      Consider: Christians blame Judas for betraying Christ. But Judas had no choice. Jesus predicted Judas would betray him. Judas was predestined to betray Christ. If Judas had not betrayed Christ, then god/Christ would not be all knowing.

      Judas and Peter did not have free will.

      Cheers!

      P.S.: I tried being Jesus for a day, but got tired of just lying there in my grave. LOL! Now that's funny!

      July 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You said,"Crusades -Jesus would never have approved – killing a a child with a bible (that you found somewhere and mentioned) Jesus would never have approved, whatever else you use to pervert Christianity – Jesus would not have approved and is just a sinner who happened to have been a Christian same as one committed a crime and happened to have been a lumberjack."

      Crusades – The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars launched by the Christian states of Europe against the Saracens. The term 'Saracen' was the word used to describe a Moslem during the time of the Crusades. You say Jesus would not have approved. But yet, the Christians at the time, thought Jesus was right there with them. Their religion, their zeal, had POISONED them. Jesus never told them different.

      You said,"killing a a child with a bible (that you found somewhere and mentioned) Jesus would never have approved, whatever else you use to pervert Christianity – Jesus would not have approved and is just a sinner who happened to have been a Christian same as one committed a crime and happened to have been a lumberjack."

      Umm...Let's see. The article about the mother, who choked her child with the pages from the bible, was reported by CNN. Did religion drive her to insanity? Or, did her insanity drive her to religion?

      If religion did not exist, would the Crusades have occurred? Would the mother have killed her child? Would the world be a better place? Would people stop ringing my door bell to tell me about Jesus?

      July 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  8. Tim

    Many religious leaders get involved in environmental or political issues of the day. However, Jesus did not become absorbed with the political problems during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (14 C.E.-37 C.E.), and during which Sejanus, the commander of the Preatorian Guard, had conspired against Tiberius. Rather, Jesus continued to point everyone to the real solution for all of mankind's great troubles or woes – God's kingdom.(Matt 6:9, 10) Even in the last moments before his death, he steadfastly stated that his "kingdom was no part of the world" when before Pontius Pilate.(John 18:36)
    Many religious leaders never provide the real solution to mankind's problems, including that of BP's, that of God's kingdom, but continue to ramble down the road for a human resolvement. The earth is definitely being ecologically damaged, as well the moral degradation that permeates the entire globe. Those who are true Christians do as Jesus did, point everyone to the permanent and everlasting solution -God's kingdom.

    July 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  9. David Johnson

    @Tom

    "Christians don't like dirty hands? Did yo talk to them? There are about 1 billion of them on earth."

    Don't know about dirty hands Tom. But it seems they like publicity when they pray...

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
    I can't recall who said that...Hmmm.
    But hey, what's a few facts to soil one's view of the world, eh?

    "Does my makeup look okay to you?"

    "Wait! We haven't got our 15 minutes yet!

    July 11, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  10. jimmy

    America reaps what she sowed. Bush with the blessing of most Americans went to Iraq looking for oil and spilled innocent blood (women and children especially). Now the coveted oil has come to shore for a pay back. I think the cry of innocent blood has reached the ears of GOD. My brothers and sisters in the LORD; let us repent now before we gather the full measure of our folly.

    July 11, 2010 at 8:07 am |
    • Noble9

      What kind of fantasy world do you people live in? You think a god would punish a country for its ex-president going to war by causing an oil leak?

      July 11, 2010 at 8:25 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Noble9

      Dude! Fundies believe in talking snakes, fruits of knowledge, the story of a global flood, talking horses, towers to heaven, snake handling, drinking poison, resurrected dead people, and a ton of other stuff that isn't true..And you ask what kind of fantasy world do they live in? Shame on you! LOL!

      July 11, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • neal hayth

      would you mind telling us how you know some god caused all this as "payback" for something someone did?

      July 12, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  11. bill

    Jesus was supposed to return, Kingdom of God, blah blah within the lifetime of the people Jesus was preaching to. it didn't happen. then Peter, who as his story goes was entrusted with the future of christianity by Jesus and God and all that, was crucified only a few months after Jesus! look fellas, it was all a joke. you can put down your prayer beads now.

    and no, there wasn't a Jesus either, that was made up too.

    July 11, 2010 at 4:56 am |
  12. Noble9

    God is going to destroy the world...again? Uh, no. It's just an oil leak. There have been worse catastrophes. There have been worse oil leaks.

    The pathetic thing about these religions is that people just throw up their hands and say 'it's god's will, it's inevitable, what can we do?' At least the missionaries are trying to pitch in. The other weaklings who think their god wants them dead are just waiting to die. Grow up and grow a backbone! This is your planet, the one your children will inherit. Help keep it clean!

    July 10, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Sorry, Noble, but you are wrong. We don't have the day of the year of this prophecy, but God will destroy everything that is evil, including mankind.

      July 11, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • David Johnson

      The fundie thinking is scarey. That was a good thought. Cheers!

      July 11, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  13. Jim

    One thing for sure. They wouldn't touch VOters with a 10 foot pole.

    July 10, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  14. HeIsGod

    GI JOHN
    David Johnson
    If god is all knowing, he would know if you would be saved or damned even before you were conceived. He would be allowing you to be born, knowing you would be burned forever. Seems cruel to me.
    If god is all knowing, he can't be all powerful. The two qualities can't occur toghther. Think about it.

    Think about this Dave. You are trying to understand spiritual things with your own infintesimal human reasoning. Everything you say is absolute foolishness. In your attempts to make other people look foolish, you continue to show that you are the fool. It is very simple, God is going to destroy this world again. Everything we see happening are the birth pains of destruction. You can mock and make fun all you want. But it is coming. As other people have stated; man brought this on himself. You think your not wicked in the sight of God Dave? What do you do behind closed doors? Whats in your thoughts? Would you be proud to show everyone what you look like on the inside Dave? I'm sure you would not. You have a terminal disease called sin. So Dave, in the words of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul, Repent! I suggest you stop mocking God . If you would spend as much time seeking God as you do mocking Him, you might find the truth to the questions you constantly repeat. Your like a broken record. Why? Why? Why? If? If? If?

    GI JOHN – I COULDN'T HAVE SAID THIS BETTER MYSELF!!! This message is for all of those Atheist, Agnostics and religious idol worshipers.

    REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND!

    July 10, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You are just mad because I tweaked your nose about not having any evidence for there being a god. You have faith, but you have no proof. You are telling people they will burn forever when they die. But you don't know it's true. You have never died.

      In my posts to you and GI Joe, I have given you several reasons to question the bibles inerrancy. If even one error is found in the bible, then how could it have been written by, or preserved by, an all perfect god? If there is even one error, could there not be two? Three? A hundred? Cheers!

      July 11, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  15. David Johnson

    @Paul L.

    Guess we can add one more death to the Christian score board. A religious Fanatic Killed Her Daughter With A Bible. You don't see a lot of atheists shooting abortion doctors or chocking their children with the pages of the good book. Hmm... it's good to see my poison theory hasn't been spoiled.

    July 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.