Disaster Response: Preparing Now for What Lies Ahead
← All News & resources

Disaster Response: Preparing Now for What Lies Ahead

BGAV DR trains volunteers now to prepare for future response needs.

April 30, 2021
This is some text inside of a div block.

by Glenn Maddox

When a crisis happens, we often hear the advice Mr. Rogers gave to children on his show years ago – “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” We also see reminders that he offered this advice for comforting children. But as Paul reminds us, “when [we] grew up, [we] put away childish things.” There is still comfort in seeing the helpers in a crisis, but we are also called to be those helpers. When certain crises come, our churches can be a center of hope for the community, but that requires being prepared.

If we want to be the helpers, to be the center of hope for our community, we need to prepare – to have the right relationships, the right training, the right resources, and the commitment to be a helper before the disaster happens.

Knowing Whom to Work With

When a disaster strikes, many of us feel a strong desire to help. But during a crisis, the right kind of help, coordinated by those who are trained to lead, is essential to meeting needs and not making things worse. We often see groups deploy themselves into a disaster area, and they can cause more damage or put people in danger. In a disaster, emergency management, whether local, state, or national responders, are best equipped to manage the response. Having a relationship with local emergency management and establishing ourselves as a trusted partner means that emergency managers will call upon us to help and let us show the community that the love of Christ can support them during their lowest time. Virginia Baptist Disaster Response and the churches that are engaged with DR have established those kinds of relationships and have become known as an excellent partner when a community needs meals, cleanup, rebuilding, or emotional and spiritual care. That call from emergency management helps us share Christ’s love with members of a community we would never meet through our usual avenues of ministry.

Knowing How to Help Fast

Being ready to respond as soon as a disaster strikes means preparing and practicing the response before one happens. Incorporating the principles of disaster response into our regular ministries helps us prepare for crisis situations. Crisis care isn’t just something that we offer when a storm hits – we can also offer crisis care as part of a deacon or family ministry. Feeding a large number quickly in a disaster requires the same skills as feeding a large number of people at a church or community event. Cleaning, repairing, and rebuilding are needs that members of our community have all the time. Meeting those needs during “blue sky” times means we can also be ready to offer them quickly when a tragedy strikes.

Knowing Where the Resources Are

When a crisis strikes, one of the first things that happens is that resources become scarce. Grocery stores are empty or closed, and supplies for feeding, cleaning, and caring for basic needs become difficult to find. Having a number of those resources in reserve can serve us during a crisis but also ensure that we can meet the needs of an individual who comes with a personal crisis quickly. But cleaning supplies and groceries aren’t the only resources we have. Our churches’ greatest resources are our people. Understanding what skills are present in our community of faith helps us to mobilize quickly and effectively in our wider community when disaster strikes. And those same skills – food preparation, construction knowledge, spiritual and emotional care, and management of all of these – can help us in all of our ministry endeavors, not just when a crisis happens.

Decide to Respond Before a Response is Needed

One of the most difficult things to do during a crisis is make decisions. Everything comes at us quickly, and the stakes feel so high that it can feel easier to do nothing rather than do the wrong thing. The key to deciding to be a helper when a disaster strikes is deciding to be a helper BEFORE the disaster strikes. Seeking buy-in from our churches before the disaster, and getting a firm commitment that we want to serve our communities is essential to deciding to be a helper during a crisis. We are called, when a person is in need to do more than say “go in peace, keep warm and well fed.” (James 2:16). By deciding that we will show our faith by our deeds before a crisis happens, then we will be ready to respond when it does.

For the last few months, Virginia Baptist Disaster Response has been part of an ongoing feeding operation at the Richmond Raceway, providing meals to hundreds of workers and volunteers who are providing COVID vaccines. This opportunity came about because we had the ability to do what was needed and a relationship with the local health departments. They knew they could come to us and we were committed to serving. Preparation and relationship led to the ability to serve.

We certainly can’t anticipate every disaster that comes. And the crises we experience will still be scary times for us, our children, and our communities. But we as churches can prepare. If your church wants to be the helpers in your community – the center of the community when a disaster strikes, we’d like to invite you to prepare with us. Virginia Baptist Disaster Response is offering a disaster vision course to help you establish a team that can be the helpers when a disaster strikes and can extend that help to the rest of the community even when the crisis has passed. We’ll explore and develop the gifts you have in your community and help you establish the relationships and plans to help you respond – within your church, in your community, and beyond as you’ll be able to deploy when disaster strikes other communities as well. You can also help the effort to overcome the pandemic by supporting local vaccination efforts. We are called to be a light in the darkness. Once we prepare and commit to serving our communities, then when people are in crisis, looking to the helpers, they will find us there ready to help them feel safe again.

Glenn Maddox is BGAV’s National Mission Director.

Last Updated:    
April 30, 2021