Disaster Relief and Recovery
By Mark Roye
For the last 20 years my wife, Susie and I have given our lives to serving in the inner-city of San Antonio, Texas. Little did we know that it would prepare us for the disaster relief work that we have been doing for more than 15 years. We have learned how to help people and communities through times of crisis following a disaster and then effectively recover. It can be a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, typhoon or even an earthquake, we have worked in the aftermath of all of these.
Our partnership and friendship with Doug Stringer and the Somebody Cares America organization, has been a very kingdom building relationship. When you look at the scope of any disaster, it is always bigger than any one organization. There are so many facets, I could go on for a long time. Many times I am asked how do we go about responding in a time of disaster.
First of all we believe that it is always about relationship. Relationship with God as an agent of compassion and relationship with Kingdom minded people. People that are in it to build the Kingdom of God and not their own kingdoms. That may sound odd, but many times even churches are in it for themselves and their congregation, not their community.
My role with Somebody Cares is the be one of the first people on the ground after a disaster to find a location that can be used as a base to collect and distribute whatever is needed. As time passes and the recovery continue, the needs of the community change. Let me share with you some practical stages of disaster relief.
Relief is the first stage of the work that we always begin with. When I say relief, I mean the beginning of providing the basic things needed after a disaster has hit an area. It can be meals, water, toiletries, cleaning supplies. This is always the greatest time of crisis because communications and distribution of everyday items is disrupted. It is total chaos, which I have found is something that I thrive in. I love watching God move to help people.
We believe that that the local church is the best prepared relationally to help in a time of disaster. Because of this, we always begin our response by finding a church that is willing to give themselves to be an agent of compassion for the sake of the Kingdom and their community. I will begin by looking for a man or woman of peace who wants to help. Most of the time it’s a medium size church.
We will be begin to assess the needs of the local community, then get the word out to our network partners. We work with a variety of aid organizations to get supplies into the disaster area. We will set up (POD), Points Of Distribution where supplies can be brought in and distributed to people in need. This can last from a weeks to even months, depending on the scope of disaster.
Recovery is the second stage of disaster relief work. This is begins when we see self sustainability begin to come back in the area. This is when people have found a way to survive and meet their basic needs in the aftermath of the disaster. It’s not that everything is all good, many may be staying in some form of shelter, hotel or may have moved out of affected areas. This is when many volunteer groups may come in and begin help in the clean up effort. Food will still be needed for both aid workers and disaster victims, but items needed will change from basic survival items to resources and tools to begin clean up and restoration. Some will be gutting their homes or cleaning up what has been damaged or destroyed. Items needed may be trash bags, gloves, tools, chainsaws and other like items. Usually thousands of volunteers come in to help. All of this requires planning and a very fluid leadership to be the most effective.
Rebuilding is the last stage. I am sure you understand that this is the longest part of any recovery. With each stage, more skilled help is needed. In this stage we will begin to bring building materials for those who may have no insurance or are under insured. Our goal is to find and help the undeserved and over looked. It may be the elderly or the poor that have limited resources. In this stage the local church partner will determine how long they want to continue in the relief work. It is at this stage when many local pastors come together and will work to rebuild their community.
This is a very short overview of the disaster relief work that we do. But let me say, Compassion is Action. We love getting to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.