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60346_10151469814710898_323654129_nThis morning at church, I learned some very helpful information that I would like to pass on to you, my readers.  It is not throughly complete, but it is from a perspective you may not be aware of, but one that I’m sure interests you very much!

Our Sunday School class on a Biblical basis for Community Development

First, I need to give some background.  Our pastor and one of the women on our staff who is responsible for Mercy Ministry and Missions, have been teaching a class this quarter on community development.  The book we are studying along with this course is When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.  It has been very helpful to have a more thorough framework to think through community development.  Because we’re not just talking development!  We’re also talking immediate care after a natural disaster (Relief) when people may not have electricity or a place to live, to say nothing of missing community resources.

Then, there is the stage that follows, after people have someplace to stay and life is starting to get back to normal. This is often called the Rehab stage, followed by the Development stage that is a longer term repair and development of the community to develop its positive aspects and minimize its weaker aspects from before the event.  This is probably more background than you want, but it tells you what we’ve been discussing for nearly 3 months!

Our teachers learned from living in a community devastated by Katrina

Jean (our pastor) and Sarah (the staff member) were both in south Mississippi, not far from New Orleans working in a church after Katrina.  They have lived through many of the stages of a disaster and recovery.  They learned through trial and error.  They learned a lot about organizations that help…and what kinds  of questions are helpful to ask when you want to help.

Here is what I learned from them today.  When trying to decide who to help and in what way, assess what you or your group can do…what are your assets?  Where can you function best?

Ask the group you might want to work with or donate to, what their niche is?  If they don’t know their special spot in emergencies, they may not be doing much of anything specific.  Work with the groups that know what they are about.

Did you know?

  • The Southern Baptist Convention’s specialty is feeding people?  After Katrina, they fed people down that way for 5 months.  They have a system.  They know how to do it.  They do it well.  And they have lots of volunteers!  Take a look at this link and you will see how many people they fed!  People who were there also  gave many thumbs up for their work.  Yes, they do other things, but that is their area of expertise!  You can donate money or volunteer to help here.  I don’t think you have to be a southern baptist to volunteer.
  • World Vision‘s niche is protecting children.  Did you know that when there is a natural disaster that sex traffickers are the first to get there…before anyone!  They know there are many vulnerable children and they want them.  World Vision gets there as fast as they can to protect chidren because of their vulnerability.  Of course, World Vision is on site in many of these countries so they don’t have to go far to be there.  You can donate money to help this work.
  • Habitat for Humanity  Did you know they do things other than building houses?  They have developed a kit that has needed tools for minor repairs and another kit for clean up. These kits are very helpful early on for communities both in the US and around the world.  You can donate money for more kits.
  • Mission to the World or Mission to North America  These are the arms of our denomination in either foreign countries or the US.  When the later stages of help come to work in an area, it is done through local churches.  Outreach isn’t limited to only their attenders or members, but it is done outward from those churches in specific communities so there is a local presence that is there after the immediate or short term help is gone.  The denomination you are part of may have a comparable presence as well.  Donations of time (on work teams) or money are appreciated here too.

There are many other organizations as well.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list at all.  If you know of other great organizations to recommend, especially if you have been helped during a natural disaster, add them in the comments with their link.

Ways to help

The recommendation given to us in our class is that initially, money is the biggest help along with bug spray and sunscreen, blankets (depending on time of year), money to buy scrubs so it is easy to dress people without any clothes, water and food and a place for them to sleep.  That early wave of help (24-48 hours) gets those basics taken care of.  Then the details of setting up more permanent housing, insurance, clean-up and repairs, etc. start.

Where do you fit?

It is important we know where we as a church and as individuals in the church fit in…gift-wise, in the process to help.  Are we those who support financially, with prayer, with getting supplies and organizing behind the scenes? Or has GOD gifted us to get in there right away with chain saws or cooking and feeding or triaging?  Maybe we’re the ones who can help later on with the rehab stage or even later.  All parts of the Body of Christ are needed.

We don’t need to feel guilty about what we can’t do, but think through what we can do.  What are we good at?  Maybe “all” a mom with young children can do is pray for these vulnerable children at night when she is up with her own baby.  Is that less important?  Hardly.

Rather than each group trying to re-invent the wheel, we need to work together as they seem to be learning to do here in our city.  One church is really great with initial emergency help.  In our church, there aren’t a lot of people with that kind of flexibility in schedules, etc.  but there was interest in helping financially so our church bought one of the trailers needed for when an emergency happens.  There are people in our church who can do that work, so they go with the other church and work together in the name of Christ.  We don’t have to waste precious dollars and GOD is glorified.  Many of our people can plan ahead for helping at the later time periods when help is needed just as much!  It is just a different kind of help!

So think through how GOD wants you to help during the recent disasters: one was in the Phillipines, another was yesterday in the midwest where a series of tornadoes hit.  One town that was badly hit had a beautiful old downtown with one of my favorite quilt shops.  I don’t think they were hit.  I think it was a residential area that got the brunt of the storm.  There is nothing less important about giving and praying…or even helping during the rehab or development stages.  The important thing is to be obedient to what GOD wants you to do!

Then do what you know GOD wants you to do!  Pray, give, work, help people who are working or any combination of the above.  All of us can pray for those who have suffered loss.  Then, we must prepare for what we can do in our community to work together when disasters strike…because they will.

How can we be the Church?

How can we be the Body of Christ to hurting people?

We need to figure that out together.