We don't want them. We would rather not even think about them, much less plan for them. But we all know it's true: Bad things happen.
Yet as Christians, we also know that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28, NASB). Even this verse doesn't promise bad things won't happen. But it does assure us that God uses even "bad" things for good.
All throughout scripture we see God making "lemonade out of lemons". The lives of Moses, Joseph, Daniel, and Paul are just a few examples.
God is not caught off guard by "bad things". He expects them and tells us to expect them also. (See Paul's list of afflictions in 2 Cor 11; also 2 Cor 1:3-11 and Rom 8:16-25.) The question is whether we're prepared to be God's instruments of light and hope when we and those around us face adverse circumstances.
Disaster Resource Alliance (DRA) exists to equip Orange County churches to deliver the hope and love of the gospel – not only during times of disaster but also by reaching into our communities with needed resources to prepare before disaster strikes. Our Roadmap to Resilience outlines a path that can lead you to become the resource your community turns to in time of need:
The Roadmap defines a process that can be followed at several levels. First, we start with personal preparedness. Our families and those of our co-laborers in Christ need to be prepared if we hope to help others when they need it most. If we're not ready, we'll be too busy caring for our own needs to be available to minister to others.
Next we can begin walking through the Roadmap at an organizational level with our church or ministry.
As our organization prepares to respond instead of being victims ourselves, we position ourselves to reach out to our community. Most community emergency managers welcome the involvement of local churches and recognize the valuable roles a church can play as part of the community's overall plan. But during a disaster they don't have time to learn who you are and how you can help. These relationships need to be established in advance.
Like most Californians, many of the neighbors around your church recognize they should be more prepared. With DRA's help, you can provide the resources they need and a little nudge to get them started. Your church can use disaster preparedness to build a reputation and the relationships within your community that will open many doors for sharing the love and truth of Jesus Christ as you've been called to do.
The Roadmap consists of five steps as briefly described here:
Our motivation to take action stems from an awareness of the risks, opportunities, and responsibilities before us. The risks come in many shapes and sizes. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, mudslides, and fires come quickly to mind. But we also face potential man-made risks, such as an active shooter on campus, riots in our neighborhood, war, or pandemics or diseases that threaten our health and ability to function normally. Add to that the ever-increasing number of technical threats, such as power failures, communication outages, transportation shutdowns, or water contamination. These risks may be as localized as our own home or church facility; they may impact our whole community or region; or potentially be national or global.
But these risks provide us with opportunities. Where people face needs, God calls on His people to step in to provide the love, hope, and resources to meet those needs in the Name of Christ (Mat 25:31-46). Fortunately, we don't have to wait for a crisis to minister to people. Before the disaster we can help them prepare, building relationships and trust along the way. After the disaster we can continue our loving support through the process of rebuilding what was lost.
Responsibility comes along with opportunities. Even as God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3), he blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. God gave Joseph the ability to interpret Pharaoh's dreams so that Egypt could be prepared for the coming famine. The parable of the talents (Mat 25) teaches us to wisely use the resources God gives us. In the same chapter, the parable of the ten virgins makes a negative example of those who don't prepare for what's to come. What gifts, resources, and opportunities has God given you for blessing others?Awareness of our risks, opportunities, and responsibilities should lead us to a commitment to action. So our next step is a deeper assessment and understanding of our circumstances.
In the Awareness phase we recognized that we face certain risks. But none of us has the resources to fully prepare for every possible contingency. Assessment of the likelihood and impact of various risks in our specific situation lets us prioritize our preparation efforts. If you live near a railroad track you might be at higher risk of a train derailment and chemical spill. If you live along the ocean, high tides and storms might be a big problem. In the foothills you might face a greater risk of wildfires or mudslides. Preparing for the more likely, high impact risks automatically increases our readiness for most of the lower risk scenarios.
Every person and organization has some resources that can be brought to bear on recovery efforts. Those resources might be personal abilities such as cooking, sewing, or construction skills. They might be personal resources such as tools and equipment, or relationships that can provide needed resources. They might be organizational resources such as a food pantry, trained counselors, or certification as a Red Cross shelter. Identifying our resources in advance saves valuable time when lives may depend on our quick response.
With a clear picture of our risks and resources, we can see the gaps between what we have and what we need. Now we can start planning how to fill those gaps, either through acquiring needed resources or forming mutual alliances that allow us to work together for the common good.
One of the most important aspects of personal planning is to create a communication plan for your family. Knowing how you will contact each other and where you will meet if you are separated when disaster strikes will reduce one of your biggest concerns. Refer to DRA's Disaster Preparedness Guide for more planning resources.
Planning at the church or organizational level is more involved, but you can do it in bite-size chunks over time based on your chosen priorities. Maybe you'll want to start by planning how to handle various emergencies that might arise during a worship service or other event on your campus. Perhaps you're more concerned about a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to keep your ministries functioning through a disaster. Maybe you'll want to make sure your facilities are safe and equipped to be a refuge in the event of a community disaster. You may want to make plans for how your organization can fit into the broader response plans of your community. Many people who never enter a church at other times will find their way to the doors of your church during a disaster. Will you be ready for them?
Your plans tell you what you want to accomplish and where to begin. Now comes the Equipping process. At home, this might involve training the family on your plan and acquiring water and other emergency supplies. At church, this may include establishing teams and training them for the functions defined in your plans. It may also involve engaging with organizations (like DRA!) that will help you connect with resources that you need to execute your plans.
Part of equipping is exercising your plan so that you have confidence it will work when needed. Exercises can be done on your own, or as part of broader regional, statewide, and national exercises that are conducted regularly. Your plans will keep getting better over time if you conduct periodic exercises and use the lessons learned to update and improve your plans.
Before the disaster strikes, execution involves engaging more people from your congregation and your local community in the preparedness process. Becoming the "go to" point for preparedness resources establishes you as a trusted partner and builds relationships through which you can demonstrate Christ's loving care.
During and after a disaster, your readiness will cement those relationships you've been building and let your community see your sacrificial love in action. You'll be blessed to see how God can use these "bad things" along with your wise preparation for His glory and the good of all!
Orange County Emergency Management Organization (OCEMO)
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