I was evacuated from my home once. It was several years ago and it was related to a fugitive hunt in my neighborhood. To say I was unprepared for such an event would be an understatement. I live in a small town, in a smaller neighborhood, on a quiet street (except for kids playing and lawnmowers running). Never did I imagine that one evening a police officer would come to my door and tell my family to leave quickly. To this day the memory still doesn’t seem quite real.
My family turned the oven off with food still inside; grabbed jackets, purses, phones, and a computer; and left the house. We weren’t sure where we were headed or how long we would be gone. We called family who lived in the next town who said we were welcome to come stay. We spent the remainder of the evening with my aunt, watching a movie and trying to make an impromptu “girls night” out of the evening. Thankfully, several hours later, we were able to return home.
But I cannot imagine what it would be like to leave your home and have no idea where you were going, what life would be like when you got there, or if you would ever return home again. My family knew that if my aunt had not been home and the situation would have lasted overnight we could stay in a hotel. It wasn’t in the budget, but it would have been done had it been a necessity. Personal items and a change of clothes could be picked up at the local Walmart.
Every year thousands upon thousands of people are evacuated from their homes–only they do not have the options of nearby family, hotels, or Walmarts. They are driven from their homes by violence, as villagers in Orissa, India, were in 2008. They are chased from their homes by monsoon rains, flooding, and natural disasters like the victims of cyclone Phailin were in 2013. They are internally displaced persons (IDPs).
What can we do? More than anything, we must pray. Pray for those who lost not only homes but loved ones. Pray for the families who have no idea where they will sleep tonight or what they will eat. Pray for the missing, the lost, the hurting. And pray for ourselves, that we do not forget that every single life affected by tragedy matters, that we never become so used to hearing about the heartache that we fail to let our hearts break.
Finally, let us pray that every one of these internally displaced persons finds the hope and life that Jesus Christ alone can offer, the Son of Man who had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NIV).