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Cleaning Up... When Natural Disasters Collide with Good Intention

Responsive Rather than Reactive Missions



I have been glued to my Weather Channel App for the last month. I'm pretty sure, after Harvey, Irma, and Maria, my hurricane monitoring has moved into the realm of compulsive. We live on the outskirts of San Antonio, so when Hurricane Harvey came into reality I felt overwhelmed and helpless.  People just two hours away were loosing all their earthly possessions and possibly their lives. This good on the surface, but guilt triggering loop, began playing in my head "people are suffering, and you aren't taking action". Less than 24 hours after Harvey hit landfall in the Corpus Christi area, my Facebook feed only exacerbated my anxiety with....




"Why isn't the church taking action"


"We are packing an 18 wheeler truck, bring donations"


As a result, the overwhelmed and hopeless feelings I had moved into out-right anxiety. You know that feeling when your body feels like it needs to move and your mind is saying, "wait, let's think this through." FULL PANIC.... So at this point in an internal battle began. Part of me is screaming:



Aren't you a Christian!?


Why are just sitting here enjoying your family when others are trying to save their homes?


Just start calling hospitals, I'm sure someone needs a nurse.


You should be doing something!



At the same time the more grounded side of me was quietly whispering the realities of natural disasters and what happens when people with good intention rush in too quickly to "HELP". These thoughts were backed up by posts from people along the Texas coast saying...



Please don't send donations. All storage has been destroyed. We have no where to store clothes and other donated items.


Only locals are allowed in due to looting of homes and businesses.


If you are going to help, make sure you have the skill and proper equipment. We don't have time to rescue the rescuers.



Then it happened, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a local ERT (Early Response Team) training by UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Their vision is to "Provide a caring Christian presence in the aftermath of disaster". Knowing that our church community has close ties with UMCOR, I signed up. A week later I, along with about 50 other people, attended this training. I have to tell you, I am so glad I did! Their mission and vision line up completely with mine. For more information on my missions core values check out my post "This Is Us" .


Here is what I walked away with after one, 8 hour training session...


  • I am now a certified ERT so I know as needs arise I will be called upon to help.

  • The post-disaster pressure is off. I am now confident that when there is a need I will be placed in the right place at the right time by a ministry that commits to being "first in" and "last out".

  • I now have the tools to support a survivor emotionally and spiritually.

  • I have been trained on how to do long-lasting roof tarping. (I'm pretty sure that is not my skill set but I'm willing to give it a try.)

  • I am now keenly aware that I should NOT be the team member in charge of the chainsaw. 

  • How to be a helpful, empowering presence. You know, long-term thinking like, don't throw away furniture before you document its existence for the insurance company.

  • Clean-up can take months to years so response in the first two weeks isn't always the most beneficial.


If you've been feeling heart-broken but overwhelmed and confused about your role in disaster recover, check out the UMCOR website and get involved. In the last month North America has experienced 4 devastating hurricanes, 2 earthquakes in Mexico and forrest fires in the Pacific Northwest. Trained disaster relief volunteers will be needed for years to come.




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