17 Dec A better response to disasters
There’s been a shift in our society. We have become accustomed to knowledge that is broad but shallow, sharing digital experiences with a wide spectrum of people, celebrating or mourning alongside the many but only for a brief moment.
Like it or not, once an event or photo has left our news feeds, we are quick to forget. Our emotions and actions have become short-sighted. We forget to bring a meal to the newly widowed because we are already focused on the next post.
Not only has media impacted our relationships close to home, it has shaped our view of the world and our ability to advocate and act on the behalf of others. We are more globally connected today than at any other time in human history. We are aware of tragedies and events almost as soon as they happen. This ability to know and respond to natural disasters and tragedies both near and far can empower us to give to relief organizations and pray for those who are hurting. However, this level of knowledge requires some amount of discipline.
“We forget to bring a meal to the newly widowed because we are already focused on the next post.”
If utilized well, this global connectedness can be a powerful tool for us as the church. But if managed poorly, we quickly and unknowingly become ineffective in truly caring for those in need-rushing from one headlined need to the next.
Instead, we must work to remember that the needs of those in tragedy do not end when their photos leave our news feeds.
Communities who experience a natural disaster will take an average of 10 years to fully recover from the devastation. After emergency needs of food, water, and shelter end, the work of rebuilding will remain. The media would have us run from disaster to disaster—viewing each only at its worst and forgetting the one that came before.
“Instead, we must work to remember that the needs of those in tragedy do not end when their photos leave our news feeds.”
A better response to disaster is one that is slow and intentional. Returning to the same devastated areas over and over again is the best way that the church can be a part of disaster relief. When we choose to engage in long-term relief efforts, we help local churches and leaders earn credibility within their hurting communities. We build relationships. And we demonstrate the faithful work of Christ. By his death and resurrection, he gives us “emergency relief” through the gift of salvation, and he also continues to “rebuild” our hearts and lives to look more like him for the long-term. His faithful commitment to us should shape the way we engage the world—not with one-time, quick fixes but with long-term, relational work.
With this in mind, we are committed to going back to devastated areas over and over again. We are continuing to send teams to work alongside churches and organizations in Puerto Rico and North Carolina. This type of commitment will require us to say no or limit our response to some other areas in need, but it will be for the good of the areas where we are already working.
Puerto Rico: A Model for Innovation or Continued Desperation?
-Megan Gaminde, Downtown Campus