Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Responding to tragedy

Last week tornados hit our county and surrounding areas resulting in much damage and loss of life.  We're not used to hearing national news anchors talking about the small communities around us, but the devastation was so great that many of them have even came on site for their broadcasts.  Almost immediately, people sought ways to help and cases of supplies have already been delivered to help the people who lost everything.  It has been heartwarming to hear of how people have responded. 

Several churches have contacted me since the tornados went through asking how they could assist.  The Salvation Army and Red Cross were receiving emergency supplies and I recommended those items could be delivered directly to those organizations.  But, I also suggested to wait before just jumping in with other forms of assistance.  One of the problems in situations like this is that people tend to have short memories.  After 2-3 weeks many people will move on to the next need and forget that it will take a long time for these folks to rebuild their lives.  If we want our churches to have the greatest impact on the folks affected by these storms we have to be willing to be involved for an extended period of time.

Our denomination has a mission agency set up to respond with financial assistance in these types of circumstances, and I've suggested that those churches who want to help financially do so through that agency.  We know that every dime designated for this cause will go directly to assist people who are trying to rebuild their lives.  It is a quick and safe way to ensure that the people who need help receives it.

Our statewide men's ministry has an Emergency Response Team that is ready to go into action.  As this post is being written they are meeting with other emergency organizations to map out a strategy for how they can best help the most people.  I am recommending that those who want to provide hands-on assistance to contact our ERT and work through them.  I did that a few years ago when a nearby community suffered major flooding and found them to be very well organized and equipped to provide excellent assistance.

Wanting to help people who have gone through a tragedy is wonderful.  While there are immediate needs that must be addressed, it is also important to take a long-term view of the assistance that will be needed.  Those needs require some planning and organization and coordinating with other agencies to make sure we are not duplicating one another's efforts or, even worse, working against what each other is trying to accomplish.

I'm very proud of the way I've seen people and churches already respond, and I'm proud of how our denomination and men's organization are approaching their response.  In my last post I mentioned how our faith should lead to action, and this is a great example of the type of action I was referring to.

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