What Do You Think When Someone Experiences a Disaster?

How do you define disaster? For some, it is a catastrophic event, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake. Some are devastated at the loss of their church or home to fire or flood. Current events in Texas and the mid-West come immediately to mind, yet just last year over 300 families in Pateros, WA, lost their homes to wildfires that destroyed over 1,000 structures and over 800 miles of fencing necessary to protect their agriculture. Recently, near where I live, a young man riding his bicycle was hit by a motorist and lost a leg. These are all life changing events made worse when you find yourself unprepared mentally, physically, and financially to meet challenges you might reasonably anticipate that happen to others every day, in every part of our world.
As Christians, I believe Christ challenges us to be thoughtful and wise in our thinking, deliberate in our actions, and thoughtful of the needs of others who may be less fortunate. This belief underpins my thoughts and action as Conference Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator. We have accomplished a lot in the past two years as we rebuild our capability to respond, but much remains to be done:
  • Each of us must play a role, and your role begins with having a plan for your family and home. If you are like many of us, the last time you thought of this was when your children were in grade school. You will be ineffective and add to the burden if you have done nothing.
  • Your church must have a plan…what I call a “continuity of ministry” plan. You must understand what the risks are, identify key leaders and actions, and conduct training. When was the last time you conducted a fire drill and evacuation during a worship service? If you are like many, perhaps never? Do your ushers know what to do, and can they reasonably assist those with mobility issues? Is there a safe area to direct people to?
  • Your church and members must be engaged in your community in a real way. Could your church be an emergency shelter, or your members volunteer in your community emergency shelters? Do you know where they are? What your risks will be varies from locale to locale, but volunteers and first responders from your church may be the first and perhaps only “loving hands of Christ” someone may experience in a crisis.
We have provided a variety of resources on our Conference Disaster Preparedness webpage to aid you in your preparation and planning. Additionally, you may request training to better prepare yourself and your members to be actively engaged in ministry in your community.

Dan Moseler
Dan Moseler is the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. Contact him if you have questions about how individuals and churches can prepare themselves for disaster, and be prepared to support others in need both locally and across the globe.