A Falwell in St. Martin? Religious charities' aid gets little coverage in post-hurricane news

As everyone from President Donald Trump to politicians of all stripes try to make sense of the mess that is Puerto Rico, I’ve noticed little has been written about all the religious groups heading down to the U.S. territory to help.

Why is this? Information about these efforts is all over the place on Twitter and in social media.

So, along with the city of Chicago sending some two dozen firefighters, paramedics and engineers to Puerto Rico, there’s a group of Chicago Catholics sending down supplies as well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which uses its storage centers in Atlanta as a staging ground for emergency relief, is also sending folks to Puerto Rico.

Seventh-day Adventist students and professors from the Adventist-affiliated Andrews University in Michigan are likewise showing up. The Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I. is chipping in 10 grand. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were finally given permission by FEMA to move in.

You may have heard about President Trump tossing towels at a Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, but here’s a story about a Calvary Chapel-affiliated church in California that’s trying to get supplies to their brethren some 3,500 miles away.

That story was from the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo, but most of the stories I’ve seen are from the religious press. Case in point is this Charisma News post about everyone ranging from Paula White Ministries to Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse racing to get thousands of pounds of supplies to the island.

It does seem ironic that while so many have problems with Graham’s style or politics, there’s much less coverage when Samaritan’s Purse pours relief supplies into a devastated area.

Christianity Today also did an overview of which religious charities are doing what. A related piece called “How do you solve a theological problem like Maria?” (an article on theodicy with a headline that plays off one of the hit songs in The Sound of Music) add this interesting factoid about Hurricane Irma:

A Samaritan’s Purse plane was the first humanitarian delivery to land on St. Martin after Irma earlier this month, thanks in part to efforts by Jonathan Falwell -- son of the late Jerry Falwell and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia -- who happened to be vacationing on the island when the hurricane hit. Falwell returned to St. Martin on one of several Samaritan Purse trips, just days after he left, to continue to minister to locals leading recovery efforts.
“As a pastor obviously, this is something I talk about a lot. Whether it’s through a hurricane or through a death in the family, we live in a broken world,” Falwell told CT.

You can read more about Falwell’s account of experiencing Irma here.

Not to be forgotten are the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are in just as bad a shape as Puerto Rico. The Denver Post ran this editorial on the situation there. Near the end, the opinion piece noted that Catholic Charities was doing all it could to help the victims.

If you want to know what’s been fixed and what hasn’t in Puerto Rico, there’s a recovery website tracking it all. There’s also a fascinating New York Times piece that tells of a harrowing 24 hours several reporters and photographers spent in sites around the island. What strikes you: The looters that are everywhere. And the people who plan to relocate to the U.S. mainland. Permanently.

So, there aren’t a lot of secular outlets noting the good that religious groups are doing in these places. As reporters finish up their pieces on visits by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence,  a good second- or third-day angle might be on the line-up of faith organizations that have arrived on these islands to help.

Frankly, reporters can write reports of this kind after any major disaster. The religious groups keep showing up to help. Big time.

Maybe readers who have a problem with these same groups' involvement in politics might agree on one place where faith actually does some good.

FIRST IMAGE: U.S. Customs Border Patrol photo, featured by United Methodist News.

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