The year 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in U.S. history. Three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused almost 370 billion dollars in damage, and it was only the second time in history for two Category-5 storms to make landfall at that intensity. Two areas received over 60 inches of rain, one island was left almost uninhabitable, and September 2017 became the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.
This hyperactive hurricane season left thousands trying to recover, and stretched the capacities of every major disaster response entity. What are the lessons to be learned from this active response season?
- Disasters create opportunities for the church to demonstrate the love of God and to share the hope of Christ. Closed doors open when we show up to offer His love in deed and in truth.
- Partnerships are vital to effective response efforts. Working in partnership increases effectiveness and broadens our ability to help more hurting people. We can do more together than any of us can do alone.
- Trained volunteers have the greatest impact in disaster response, and greatly increase response effectiveness. The best way to help in times of disaster is to be trained and connected with a reputable disaster relief organization. You can get connected and sign up for a 2018 Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief training by going to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr/ .
- Untrained volunteers create challenges for effective response, but spontaneous volunteers are always going to show up in disaster events with extensive media coverage. Though untrained volunteers often create response issues, they can fill a needed gap when channeled in a right direction. God used Southern Baptist untrained volunteers from our churches in amazing ways in the midst of the suffering and devastation, but they were most effective when paired with trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. Send Relief through the North American Mission Board gives us a vehicle to effectively utilize untrained volunteers effectively, if we develop a strategy from our lessons learned this hurricane season.
- Disaster sites were overwhelmed with spontaneous loads of collected resources, such as used clothing, bottled water, and other resources. Before collecting items for disaster victims, we should make sure items are needed and wanted. We were reminded in 2017 that the best way to help those affected is by giving monetary donations, which enables those affected to both maintain their dignity and to purchase what they really need.
- Recovery takes time for those affected. Recovery often takes years for those affected from the loss of disasters.
- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the best ways to donate to those affected by disaster. 100% of every dollar given goes directly to meet the needs of those affected.
- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief remains as one of the most effective disaster relief entities in the world. Southern Baptist volunteers prepared more than 3 million meals, served over 90,000 days and witnessed more than 700 people profess faith in Christ as they ministered to hurricane survivors in 2017. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers brought help, healing, and hope to thousands of people affected by this extremely active hurricane season in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
“And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that we may not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)