A Call For Samaritans To Step Up

Rick Warren
CBS/The Early Show
As pastor of the country's largest Southern Baptist church, Saddleback Community Church in California, Rick Warren and other church officials are calling upon the community to offer food and shelter to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"We're actually on a three-day tour of four different states affected," Warren tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, "We are meeting with government leaders; we're meeting with religious leaders; and we're meeting with relief leaders."

Warren is the author of the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life," which encourages people to embrace the life God created for them to live.

"I believe God can bring good out of bad any time," he says. "He turns crucifixions into resurrections. And I think we're seeing that here. I'm seeing three major things as I looked yesterday in Houston, where we were actually, on the floor of the Astrodome. There were 20,000 people there, but the 20,000 people there aren't the real story. There are 150,000 being assimilated into Houston right now by churches."

He says there are three stages to help victims after a disaster such as Katrina.

"The first is rescuing, and that often takes days," he says. "FEMA comes in, rescues survivors, things like that. The second phase is resuming, and that's the local government's responsibility of getting the power and the water, lights, and communication back on, and that can often take weeks.

"But the third phase, which is the longest, is rebuilding. Rebuilding lives, rebuilding churches, rebuilding schools, rebuilding businesses. And I don't really think that the government can handle the long-term rebuilding. That can only be done, in my opinion, by local organizations like churches."

After the Red Cross and other relief organizations are gone, the churches in the communities can help, he says.

"Our goal is to mobilize the churches for the long-term rebuilding," he says. "There are about 350,000 churches in America. And if every church just took three people who had been displaced, there wouldn't be any displace people. They'd all have a place to go."

He says thousands of churches are doing just that.

"I was at the church of the Woodlands (Texas), met with about 1,000 relief workers there, just out of that one church," he says. "We've been in Memphis with a church, and in Germantown Baptist church (Tenn.), where they've had relief workers."

Warren says there is no need for displaced families to be concerned of proselytizing by hosting church families.

"That's not the attitude I'm seeing," he says. "I'm seeing three different attitudes. I'm seeing, first, the resilience of the survivors, which is an amazing thing to me. They're just grateful to have a church helping them out, providing meals, providing shelter, and providing clothing. There's been amazing gratitude among the people. I don't hear much blaming among the actual survivors themselves, as much as we hear here at the governmental level. Then, I see an amazing generosity being poured out by Americans everywhere. Not just church people, but all Americans.

"Last week our church gave over $1 million offering, just in a single offering for Katrina victims. And, then, the third thing I'm seeing is organized compassion. Churches are organized to show compassion, and I don't think they care whether they're Baptist or Buddhist or Methodist or Mormon or Presbyterian or Jewish or no religion. I think they just want to help. It's not a religious problem. It's a human problem."