When Hurricane Isabel bore down on the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2003, disaster relief volunteers across the state and around the country prepared to respond on a large scale.
Thankfully, large scale disasters like Hurricane Isabel happen infrequently in Virginia, but smaller disasters like the derecho of June 2012, heavy snow in Southwest Virginia in 2015, tornadoes in Central Virginia in 1993 and severe thunderstorms or flooding happen more frequently and cause serious damage in our communities.
These localized disasters still require significant contributions from the community to provide families relief on the road to recovery. Is your church prepared to respond on short notice?
University Baptist Church in Charlottesville mobilized volunteers to prepare meals for search teams after the disappearance of Hannah Graham in September 2014, and Wise Baptist Church used their church kitchen to feed those responding to snowstorms in February 2015.
Michael Cheuk, pastor at University Baptist, says to be prepared means that “we are a part of our community and neighborhood, and we want to be a part of the solution when a need arises.”
Here are a few ways your church can prepare to respond to local disasters and crises:
Understand Your Resources
Do members in your church have chain saws and other power tools to help cut trees and make small repairs for your neighbors?
Does your church have a kitchen that could be used to prepare nutritious meals for residents or responders after a crisis?
Do you have large gathering areas, showers, generators, or other resources that could be put to use?
“You don’t have to be prepared to address every need in the community,” Cheuk says. “Find out what your members are good at doing and passionate about, and focus on preparedness in those areas.”
Think creatively about your resources and know what you have and how you could use it to respond to needs.
Communicate About Your Resources
Tell your church about the resources you have. When a small disaster strikes, they can make referrals from their neighbors, using word of mouth to spread the good news about your church’s willingness to respond. Spend some time communicating as you initiate your plans, but also continue to remind folks each year.
You should let your local emergency manager know of the resources you have available. In small disasters, the county may respond without any outside help, and your church can be on the front lines of the response, serving in a time of great need.
Also share your resources with the Virginia Baptist Disaster Response office. Through local and regional networks, Virginia Baptists are often called upon to respond in local communities because of our significant resources throughout the Commonwealth in our churches. If the state office knows the resources you have available, we can connect you to opportunities in your region as we receive requests.
We can share the hope of God in times of great need, and a little preparation and planning will go a long way toward making a significant difference in your community.
Learn more about Virginia Baptist Disaster Response and find out how you can join response efforts across North America.
Contact our office to learn more about responding as a church in your community, and read the rest of this preparedness series.