Years ago I served on the local city council when a major tornado destroyed our downtown. As an elected official, with the title of mayor pro-tem, I got a first hand look at disaster response. One thing I learned in the process is that disaster may strike quickly, but recovery takes extended time. In addition to physical damage, the town suffered emotional damage that had to heal.
This week our town is again suffering; this time from a major flooding disaster. As a pastor, I now serve in a completely different role. Even with experience with a major disaster, however, it’s been another learning week for us as a church.
The biggest question has been what we are to do while we wait to respond to this tragedy. Grace Community Church is a doing church. We have serving our community in our DNA. Our people have been anxious to do something tangible. In cooperation with local officials, however, we have been encouraged to wait. In the early stages of this disaster, it was determined that mass numbers of people are not the greatest need. With the layout of our community divided by two rivers, transportation has been at a standstill. The safety of people, stabilizing the road system, and assessing needs of the community is where local officials are focusing attention. We now have teams in motion. Check back HERE daily to see what’s needed next.
When the time is right, we can easily mobilize people. We’ve proven that previously and we do it weekly during our Sunday services and annually with our Operation Serve community service project. When we ask our people to serve, they show up ready to plug in where needed.
The current answer we have landed on is not to quit everything we do waiting until our community needs us. In the months to come the community will still need a strong church organization, so we must continue to develop and grow as an organization. There are ongoing ministries and practices that we must not quit doing.
At the same time, we must be sensitive to what has happened. We decided to begin collecting names of people who are ready to serve and collect projects that are ready to be completed. (You can join our list HERE.) Some of our people have already offered assistance through agencies like the Red Cross. There will be immediate things we can do and when they are discovered, we are ready. We will be respond as we are called upon, but we don’t want to hinder the work of local officials.
My advice from experience is that when a disaster comes into the life of an organization, don’t stop everything because of it, but it should and will alter some of what you do in the future as you respond to the situation.
Has your church or organization experienced disaster? How did you respond?