Facebook and UMCOR

September 18, 2017

by Mary Brown

Last week I couldn’t stop lurking on Facebook.

My home town is St. Petersburg, Florida.  For a while there it looked like Hurricane Irma had plans for some category-four level destruction in good ol’ Tampa Bay.  My extended family debated on whether to stay or go, and ultimately ended up in a split decision.  Some left their homes for higher ground; others decided they’d hunker down and see it through.

I was at home in the mountains of North Carolina… but my mind was 600 miles south.  I wondered about the traffic for my dad on I-75 and my brother’s new home in a flood-prone neighborhood.  I thought about those who chose to stay local but move inland.  What was going on down there?  

So I scrolled through Facebook looking for live videos and recent pictures.  I tuned in to a Tampa Bay news station.  I watched Irma wiggle back and forth on time loops, flirting with long strings of spaghetti.  I couldn’t seem to look away.  I became a bit obsessed.

And let me tell you what all that internet time got me.

Nothing.

I can’t say I blame myself for wanting to catch a glimpse of what was happening.  I wanted to help but couldn’t.  What else was I to do?

Well… actually…

The early church knew what to do.  Needless to say, they didn’t sit there with their faces glued to their phones.

Acts 11 tells us that the church in Antioch once heard about a severe famine effecting the whole known world.  “The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul” (v. 29-30).

When disaster struck, the church of the first century sent relief.  

As does the church of the twenty-first century.

We Methodists can do something much more helpful than troll the internet for live video feeds.  We can make a donation through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  We can collect supplies for UMCOR to send as needed, or get trained to serve on an Early Response Team.  

Let me tell you from personal experience: It’s not a bad thing to care about what’s happening to people in another part of the country or world.  But that caring does little good if it fails to motivate us to action.

Let’s spend less time lurking on Facebook.  Let’s spend more time working through groups like UMCOR.  According to your ability, send relief.  Volunteer. Collect items.  

It’s our tradition.

Mary Brown is the pastor of Andrews UMC in the Smoky Mountain District

Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.