Faith in Action: How to Prepare & Respond When Disaster Strikes
The pictures and stories of the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma have been heart-wrenching. From growing up in the Sooner State, I am all-too familiar with tornado warnings, watches and storm preparations. Although many miles away in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the news reports alone have had me in tears.
Thankfully, there is a bright spot in the midst of this horrific event. Within minutes of news breaking about the tornado, I began to see numerous updates on Facebook and Twitter of relief organizations and churches (near and far) who were mobilizing to help. These servants started notifying their followers and congregations of supply drop-off locations, how to donate money, and to stay tuned for when they could enter the area to offer assistance.
I love seeing so many people spring into action to serve and am grateful to be a member of a congregation who puts their faith into action. While these organizations help the people of Moore put their lives back together, we should all consider our own plans for how to deal with a potential disaster and how to serve in the wake of one. Here are a few tips:
- Make sure you’re prepared at your location with documented and frequently communicated emergency plans. Ensure that your team knows when, where and how to handle an emergency. Assign leaders to each section of the building to handle a scenario that occurs during a service. Develop a communication plan to update loved ones and to reunite parents with their children. You already know what types of disasters are common in your area (tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes), so be prepared for the applicable scenarios.
- Use wisdom in all forms of communication. Social media can be an incredible tool for coordinating response efforts. While it’s an easy and quick communication tool, it’s also easy to make a mistake when you’re in a hurry. Make sure that whomever is representing your church on your social media channels knows what to post and when. If you setup any automated posts, put them on hold if a storm or other natural disaster is impending.
- Before a disaster strikes, establish relationships to coordinate efforts. One church alone can do a lot; however, we can have a much better impact when we coordinate with other organizations as well as local police, fire, city and state officials. When these groups know that they can count on your congregation to help in an emergency, they’ll be more likely to open up lines of communication and coordinate relief efforts with your team. Part of this process means that you need to be available to them even when there’s not an emergency, which leads to my last tip.
- Cultivate a service-oriented culture. Jesus provided us with the ultimate example by becoming a servant Himself. As His followers, we should do likewise by serving and loving our neighbors. You certainly don’t have to (and shouldn’t) wait for a disaster to serve. Find ways to help your community year-round and become a trusted group that they can count on for assistance.
As a proud Okie, I’m confident that Moore will come back strong. Maybe it’s part of the pioneer grit that’s woven into our collective DNA, but we certainly won’t let a tornado keep us down. I’m grateful to every church, ministry, relief organization and individual who’ve come together to love the people of Moore. Thank you for truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. That’s what His Body, His church, is supposed to do and it brings renewed hope to see that light shining bright in the midst of a dark week.
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