“Mom, did you hear about the earthquake? The news said thousands of people died.”
If you have not heard a variation of this question today, you probably will soon. As news of this devastating earthquake continues to flood all forms of media, it is likely that your children or those you serve will hear about it and turn to you for help, advice, and processing. This can be a “deer-in-the-headlights” moment for us adults because, to be perfectly frank, we often feel just as lost and confused in these moments.
Here are some ideas on how you can enter into a conversation that both assuages fear and helps them turn to God in times of confusion, doubt and sadness.
1. Ask a few questions of your own
Sometimes in our own zeal to answer questions or in our fear of not answering well, we just start talking in the hopes that we make some sense to them. But sometimes it’s better to start slow and get more information about exactly where your kids are at before just barging ahead. Some examples would be, “Yes, I’ve heard. Where did you hear?” or “How are you feeling about that?” or “Do you have any questions for me about that?” It is possible that you’ll find they just want a hug and reminder that you and God loves them. But other times, they may have deeper questions. Overloading them could be harder on them if they aren’t ready to handle it yet.
2. Be “All There” when you have the conversation
If your child is bringing up this topic with you, something about it caught their attention. They might be afraid of the same thing happening here. They might be questioning how God could let it happen. They might just be curious to see how you react. Regardless, they came to you. It’s worth putting down your phone, turning off the radio or TV, delaying the chores and giving them your undivided attention. It will mean more to them to have YOU than any answer you could give.
3. If possible, let them act.
Kids are doers. When they hear about something like this, they will naturally want to do something about it. A few years ago when a tornado ripped through the town of Moore, OK, my girls heard the story on the radio, asked a lot of the questions we’ve discussed, and ended up deciding to spearhead a Toy Drive for the kids in OK. With some help from mom and a great church body, they were able to send a ton of toys to a church in Oklahoma to hand out to kids who’d lost all of theirs. Through that action, they were able to experience just a little bit of what it is to be the hands and feet of Christ on earth. Over the next few weeks, a number of relief opportunities will likely be made available – consider giving your kids some options to “be the church” to Nepal.
4. Pray with them
Of utmost importance, before the conversation ends, help them remember that we serve a God who invites us to come before His throne with confidence to find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). Invite them to join you in that throne room and pray together for the people of Nepal and those who are going to help. And never forget to thank God for the blessings you have, especially the one you are praying with in that moment.
As your kids grow, the questions will become tougher but the best thing you can do is establish the open door with them to come to you. By taking time to engage them and pray with them you set a precedent, both at home and in ministry, that you are a safe place to go in times of fear and doubt.
Here are some ways you can help the efforts in Nepal as you join the church around the world in prayer for this country. (Source: Public Radio International at http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-04-25/how-help-nepal-7-vetted-charities-doing-relief-work-following-earthquake)
AmeriCares is an emergency response and global health organization. They have sent an emergency response team from their offices in Mumbai to Nepal and are “preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors.”
CARE describes itself as a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. It has a long-established presence in Nepal, and told USA Today that it was “coordinating with other agencies to assist up to 75,000 people.”
Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the United States. It maintains field offices in Nepal and has started its relief effort by “procuring emergency relief materials such as tarpaulins/shelter kits and water, sanitation and hygiene material.”
Direct Relief is a nonprofit that specializes in providing international medical assistance. It is in the process of coordinating with local partners in Nepal and will focus its relief efforts on the “valley around Kathmandu, where medical facilities are overflowing with patients seeking care.”
GlobalGiving is a charity fundraising website that has set up a fund specifically for Nepal relief efforts. The money collected will go to “help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts” run by vetted local organizations, according to a post on the GlobalGiving site.
Save the Children
Save the Children is an international NGO dedicated to promoting children’s rights and providing relief and support to children in developing countries. It has set up a Nepal fund to “protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.” Ten percent of the funds collected will go to prepare for the next disaster.
The Seva Foundation is a US-based nonprofit known for its work treating blindness. It has a long-running presence in Nepal and has set up an emergency relief fund.
Others worth mentioning:
UNICEF, the United Nation program dedicated to helping children in developing countries, is currently “mobilizing an urgent response to meet the needs of children” affected by the disaster, and is working to deliver water purification tablets, hygiene kits and nutrition supplies to those in need.
Oxfam, a confederation of NGOs, currently has “aid workers … on the ground, preparing to launch a rapid response to ensure food and water reaches” survivors, according to its site.
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.