The year 2018 witnessed Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, the California Wildfires, the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami, the Guatemala Mount Fuego Eruption, and Super Typhoon Manghut along with countless other smaller disaster events. Each of these events caused significant loss that left people and communities reeling in the aftermath of these natural disasters.
What can we do as the church to help those suffering in times of disaster?
Here are the ten best ways to help survivors of disasters:
- Do not just show up to volunteer. Spontaneous, untrained volunteers often make response more difficult for responders. Disaster areas are often short on housing and food. Those who just show up often rob these resources from those affected by the disaster, and often create issues that slow down rescue and recovery efforts.
- Get trained as a disaster relief volunteer. Training enables you to respond at the right time and in the right way so that you provide real and effective help to survivors of disaster. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provides effective and positive ways to connect as a volunteer to help in times of disaster. Learn more and register for a training at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .
- Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor trailer with donated supplies unless you are connected with someone on the ground and meeting a specific request. Disasters often become a receptacle for “guilt” giving or “make-myself-feel-good” giving. It does not help communities devasted by disasters to barrage their communities with unwanted items or to ship them our junk. Collecting stuff often causes further damage to communities by creating debris piles and the cost of disposing unwanted, unneeded truckloads of stuff.
- In most cases, monetary donations to reputable organizations are the best way to help those affected by disasters. Monetary donations enable organizations to meet real needs in the best and most efficient way. Ministering to disaster victims should be about meeting the needs of those affected, not making myself feel good.
- Avoid charity fraud. Give to reputable organizations with a proven track record. Donations through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, Baptist Global Response, and Send Relief with the North American Mission Board are some of the best ways to offer help and hope to disaster survivors.
- Donate blood.
- Pray for those affected. Prayer is always a right thing to do for hurting people.
- If the disaster is in the church’s community, the church can offer compassion by just reaching out to support our neighbors. Listening to them and being with them in their pain and confusion brings God’s healing comfort.
- Meet practical needs. Offer the church as a shelter. Prepare meals or allow a Southern Baptist mobile kitchen to be set up at your church to provide meals. Collect and reach out to families affected with Home Depot, Lowes, or Walmart gift cards.
- Plan and organize a community memorial service or worship event that allows families a safe place to find healing and comfort in their loss.
“Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”
(1 John 3:18).