Five Ways to Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of 911
by Diana Davis
It was 5:00 a.m. on the first anniversary of 911. I was in New York as a Victim Chaplain to minister to family members at the memorial service that day. Standing in the darkness overlooking the gaping hole left by the disaster, I overheard a man nearby mumbling, “I was standing right here that day.” After a long pause, he continued, “I haven’t even been back until now. I still can’t believe it happened.” Suddenly I realized that he was talking to me! As I listened to his devastating story of friends who died and his personal terror that day, he sobbed uncontrollably, weeping huge tears. As we prayed, God gave comfort to the man who was trying to put his world back together.
Since the tenth anniversary of 911 falls on a Sunday, how can you acknowledge it at your church? Here are a few fresh ideas:
• Honor First Responders. Invite local police, firefighters, EMTs, etc. to attend worship on September 11 by delivering a large invitation to the local fire and police station. Reinforce the invite with email and snail mail. Personally invite the fire and police chief. Place an ad in the local newspaper to express appreciation and invite first responders to the service. During worship, present first responders with a gift. Our church will give a coffee mug imprinted with “We’re praying for you,” with the church website, and Joshua 1:9 “…be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Express appreciation to them and pray for God’s protection and wisdom. Assure that church members visit with the guests and invite them to return for worship next Sunday.
• Disaster Funds Offering. September 11 could be an opportune time to collect a special offering for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the largest mobilizer of trained, credentialed disaster relief volunteers in the United States. Because of our Cooperative Program, 100% of disaster relief offerings go directly to help crisis victims, and, most importantly, it’s done in Jesus’ name.
• Shield a Badge with Prayer. This would be a great Sunday to kick off a prayer plan, such as “Shield a Badge with Prayer.” Our church did a version of this for many years, with amazing results. Church members commit to pray for one specific policeman, fireman or other badged public official for one year, sending occasional notes of prayer.
• 911 Prayer and Testimony. Acknowledge the 911 anniversary with a prayer for God’s continued comfort for victims’ families. If a church member was personally affected or involved in the aftermath, he or she could share a brief testimony of God’s sufficiency during those days.
• Challenge your Church. Encourage members to intentionally rise up as God’s church and show His love when disaster hits your community or the nation in the future. If that level five tornado had hit your town instead of Joplin, how would your church have responded? Challenge some to acquire CPR and first aid training, SBC disaster relief training, or disaster relief chaplain training. Begin a plan for communication and church preparedness for disaster ministry.
When 911 occurred, we lived across the country from New York. Our church hosted a community-wide prayer service that next day, and I saw God’s peace and comfort. I walked the search line as a disaster chaplain during the space shuttle disaster recovery, helped grieving parents after a fatal bus crash, and stood beside people who lost loved ones in gas explosions, floods and tornados. Each time, I’ve watched the miraculous power of God as we prayed and ministered in His name during disaster.
As we remember 911, will your church and church members recommit to be God’s representatives during crisis?
©Diana Davis www.keeponshining.com is an author, speaker, and wife of North American Mission Board Vice President, Midwest Region.
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