As the newest member of the Lutheran Disaster Response team at ELCA churchwide office, I am in a unique position to appreciate the complex process and the “ecological system” of disaster response from various perspectives. I can easily put on the hat of a regular concerned citizen and a consumer of news during this time…and I do. In the last few days, I have been “devouring” news about every moment of Hurricane Sandy. The wrenching stories of our fellow citizen fighting for their lives through the stormy night, the epic winds, flooding and destruction, together with the heroic actions of the firefighters, police and national guard have kept me fixated on the TV and computer for hours on end. If that were the only hat I wore, I know Hurricane Sandy would be out of my mind when the next news cycle came around in a few days.
But as a part of the Lutheran Disaster Response team, I have the privilege to wear another hat, the hat of someone who is a part of a wider community which is determined to accompany affected individuals and communities on their road to recovery. The work we have done as a team in the churchwide office these last few days is not really what you would describe as “sexy”. We have spent a lot of time talking with folks who have been providing relief and care for others while also working through their own shock and loss; these are our church leaders as well as leaders of social ministry organizations affiliated with our church. We have participated in numerous conference calls with our national partners – the Red Cross, Salvation Army, NVOAD, FEMA, the Methodists and Presbyterians, just to name a few. In close collaborations with numerous units and departments within the churchwide organization, we are finding ways to refine our communication and fundraising strategies, and the list goes on. While we judiciously share resources with our affiliates on the ground to support their relief work as first responders, we are also preparing to embark upon the usually less dramatic yet crucial aspect of disaster response – long-term recovery.
It is indeed a privilege to be able to see and appreciate the disaster response process from multiple perspectives. Disaster response is not just what happens the few days or months after a disaster. Accompanying those affected on the road to recovery is a long and at times difficult process. We are very grateful that in our country we have an elaborate and developed system, which functions much like an “ecological” system; this system includes actors from all sectors – the public and private as well as faith-based organizations, civic societies and engaged citizens. We are appreciative that Lutheran Disaster Response is able to play a role in this system. While on a national level we specialize in long-term recovery, through our network of affiliates and churches around the country we are able to engage locally in actions immediately after a disaster.
Please join us in this ecological system of disaster response; for I believe that it is not simply a human ecological system, but is God’s ecology. For most of us this call is not for immediate action on the East Coast, as responding agencies work to stabilize the situation. Yet we can all be a part of this ecology in faith as ardent prayer warriors, as donors, and eventually as volunteers for long-term recovery.
And, please do not forget our sisters and brothers in the Caribbean, in areas of the world that do not have as extensive of a response system that we have in this country. Hurricane Sandy has played havoc on them as well. They too are in need of our prayers and resources. Thank You.
Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond domestically and internationally in times of need. Donate now.