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Hurricane Sandy has devastated the Northeast, leaving dozens dead, millions without power and billions in damage.

The challenges in the wake of such disasters are too great for any single entity. Governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith communities and individuals have to work together to help.

At the heart of Christianity is the principle of giving. Since its inception, the Christian church has had concerns for those in need. In Acts, Paul urges Christians to "help the weak" and quotes Jesus saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Monetary donations are crucial to nonprofit and religious organizations that provide relief.

But the call for giving does not absolve us from ministering. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to "go into the world and proclaim the gospel." In the modern church, many have been content to pray and give, while neglecting to go and help the needy.

With houses of worship serving as epicenters for such disasters, faith leaders realize they must play an active role. If we are going to have an impact on the world with the gospel message, we have to be willing to live our faith. When people sought relief from Jesus during his earthly ministry, he dealt with their spiritual and physical needs.

Religious organizations now work to recruit and train volunteers to assist in disaster-stricken areas. They provide meals and counseling while assisting with cleanup and recovery. Churches also serve as donation centers for food and clothing. This weekend, our church will host disaster-relief training conducted by the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. With so much tragedy hitting so close to home, we cannot look the other way.

Amid the widespread destruction along the East Coast, there have been inspiring stories of nurses, firefighters and rescuers risking their lives to save others. With only a few days to another contentious presidential election, it is refreshing to see Americans again united in a common cause — another reminder that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at

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