Relief efforts are kicking into high gear in Texas and Florida following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The sheer devastation is…devastating. Enter the church—both local and nationally organized iterations—to the scene. The lesson we’ve learned from these latest disasters is that the church—like the minutemen of yesteryear—is uniquely positioned to help in times of crisis.
“About 80 percent of all recovery happens because of non-profits, and the majority of them are faith-based,” said Greg Forrester, CEO of National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up with the tasks of clearing debris, restoring power, and, most importantly, keeping those affected fed and sheltered. As the government and the church work closely to help people recover, it’s clear that the government relies heavily on the assistance of the church and para-church organizations. In fact, because of its communal nature and conviction to help people, churches are ideal disaster-relief organizers and implementers.
The Unique Strengths of Different Denominations
Seventh Day Adventists
According to USA Today, the Seventh Day Adventists have an established system of warehousing disaster relief supplies. Their system is so effective that USA Today says if you were to send physical donations to Texas or Florida right now, that donation would go through the hands (and the system) of a Seventh Day Adventist before going to a storm victim.
United Methodist Church
The UMC has a Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that is known for its “case management” expertise. Additionally, UMCOR has over 20,000 trained volunteers, and in this latest disaster, their volunteers have worked tirelessly de-mudding homes and removing debris. These volunteers are background checked and can respond quickly when disaster strikes. The UMC is also gifted in helping those affected apply for aid from various government relief agencies and private insurance companies. UMC’s skill in this overwhelming process is so good, they actually train case managers from other nonprofits.
Southern Baptist Church
The SBC’s Disaster Relief organization (SBDR) is one of the three largest disaster relief organizations in the U.S., rubbing elbows with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. The President of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, Kevin Ezell, met with President Trump and the leaders of the Salvation Army and Red Cross on September 1, 2017, to discuss how to implement relief in Texas. The strength of SBDR lies in the massive network it can draw on in the SBC—the nation’s largest protestant denomination. Churches throughout the affected areas are being used as shelters and church members form a small army of workers. The SBC’s 1,550 mobile units include equipment to clear debris, de-mud homes, feed people, provide power, and purify water.
Convoy of Hope
The Convoy of Hope is a non-denominational nonprofit based in Springfield, Missouri. Their specialty is feeding people—lots of people. Convoy of Hope is so efficient, sometimes FEMA commissions them to do what they do best. Sometimes they even use government-supplied equipment and food to accomplish their tasks. Before Irma actually made landfall in Florida, the Convoy had three trailer trucks with food, water, and sanitary supplies ready to go on the ground.
This is only a handful of the faith-based groups that are assisting people in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Across faiths and denomination lines, people are helping one another. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Kerry Shook of Woodlands Church are hosting events to equip local pastors in Texas on Monday, September 18, 2017. Similar events are in the works for Florida as well. To learn more about attending these, click here.
The aid isn’t confined to the United States, either. SBC-affiliated groups have even made their way to the Dominican Republic to assist with relief efforts there.
It’s encouraging to witness the church mobilizing and being the church. In the midst of a dark and discouraging situation, the bride of Christ is doing what she can to help. If that’s not loving your neighbor, I don’t know what is.