How can We Prepare to Provide Hope When Disaster Strikes?

When people suffer they naturally look to God for help. Even if they don’t acknowledge him before tragedy enters their life, they hope He is there when they need Him. It is in that moment that we have one of the best opportunities to minister God’s love in a big way. My title to this piece is a question that is pertinent for our churches today! People are suffering all around us and the potential for cataclysmic suffering is very real. How can we make sure we are prepared to provide hope when suffering or disaster comes?

 

When All is Well:

The Watchmen of old would walk their assigned area and at the mark of the hour called out something like,”3 o’clock and all is well!” As we learn how to prepare to provide hope when disaster strikes we need to take on the role of the Watchman. We need to learn how to observe our assigned area, be aware of the threats and prepare to respond. Our first task is to define our area of concern. Is it your immediate family and friends? Or is God calling you to look for opportunities to care for your immediate neighbors or even your neighborhood? Through prayer, establish your parameters and begin to develop your awareness of those in your assigned area.

You may want to begin by praying for your neighbors each day by name. An excellent resource for this kind of prayer ministry is www.blesseveryhome.com. I think you will find that simply praying regularly for your neighbors will develop your awareness of those families and God will begin to grow a loving burden for them in your heart. This is the first step in preparing to provide hope.

You may want to undergird your prayers with a regular walk around your neighborhood. As you walk you will be able to “see” each home that you pray for and begin to put names and faces together. Walking as you pray is a great way to meet your neighbors as they come and go, or as they are working in their yard or exercising. Your regular presence walking the neighborhood will give you many opportunities to chat with and get connected with your neighbors.

Another opportunity might be becoming active in your Neighborhood Association. Or you may want to host a block party so your neighbors will have the opportunity to get to know each other. They will appreciate your initiative in providing this opportunity for them because most of them don’t know each other.

Finally, practice celebrating with your neighbors. Watch for opportunities to bless them. When a new baby arrives, be sure to take a gift. When a child graduates, find a way to acknowledge the achievement. If you have been praying for someone with a serious illness and they get a good report, praise God with them. Romans 12:15 tells us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. Bring blessing and rejoicing to your neighbors when all is well so they will receive you in those times that are difficult. You get the idea.

When your Neighbor Suffers a Loss:

The song that was on the top of the charts a while back was, “Life is Hard (but God is good)!” by Pam Thum. These words express, in short, our ministry in the midst of disaster.

Here are the lyrics:

You turn the key
Then close the door behind you
Drop your bags on the floor
You reach for the light
But there’s darkness deep inside
And you can’t take it anymore

‘Cause sometimes living takes the life out of you
And sometimes living is all you can do

Life is hard, the world is cold
We’re barely young and then we’re old


But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

You start to cry
‘Cause you’ve been strong for so long
And that’s not how you feel
You try to pray
But there’s nothing left to say
So you just quietly kneel

In the silence of all that you face
God will give you His mercy and grace

Jesus never said
It was an easy road to travel
He only said that you would never be alone
So when your last thread of hope
Begins to come unraveled
Don’t give up, He walks beside you
On this journey home and He knows

Life is hard, the world is cold
We’re barely young and then we’re old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

In times of trouble and heartache we have the opportunity to bless our neighbor with encouragement and hope. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if [a]either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not [b]another to lift him up.11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they [c]keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if [d]one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

Disaster strikes any time a person or a family experiences the harshness of living in a fallen world. When your spouse or child dies, disaster! If your Dr. has just diagnosed you with cancer, that is a disaster! When you get fired from your job, disaster! Your house catches fire, Disaster! You get the idea. Every person will experience the harshness of life at some time. As you practice praying for and getting to know your neighbors it won’t be long until one of them experiences a disaster in their life. Then you will be able to go to them and love them with compassion, sympathy, and encouragement. Your simple act of kindness; a card, a meal, an expression of your concern could make the unbearable, bearable!

You will also find that this simple “touch” can become a bridge to friendship and encouragement that God will use for His purpose of bringing a spiritual freshness into their life that could lead them to know Him personally. As you reach out to them with faith that God will use your simple acts of kindness you will see Him bring healing and hope in their life. But only if you are prepared and willing to act as the agent of hope in your community! Have confidence in Galatians 6:9, “ Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

When your Neighbor-hood is “ILL”:

As you practice praying for and caring for your neighbors you may well discover patterns of suffering. You might see families suffering the ravages of drug or alcohol abuse. Perhaps you discover latch key children that need after school supervision. Maybe you find some widows or single moms that are lonely and struggling? Or perhaps there is are young couples with children that have no immediate family close by? Any of these circumstances could be an opportunity for your church to offer something they are hungry for but just don’t know how to get?

What if your church offered a Celebrate Recovery program and you could share this with your neighbor? What if your church offered an after-school program? Or what if you provided your yard as a place for a Mission VBS for a few days so you could get to know the kids and then become the “Safe House” in your neighborhood? What if you and some friends began a weekly Small Group for the widows or single moms or young couples that provided an opportunity for them to connect and discuss how the Bible can enrich their lives? Or what if you simply opened your home for a group from your church to meet and connect with those in your neighborhood? What if you found a way to offer a connection to your neighbors?

Psalm 147:3 says,” He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their [a]wounds.” Your prayers and concern for your neighbors plus the resources of your church and help from just a few of your church members could become the healing agent for what ails your neighborhood! It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God that brings healing to broken lives and families. You may well be the catalyst for bringing the Healing Word to your neighbors as you open your life and perhaps your home to them.

When your Community is Hit Hard:

Occasionally whole communities get hit hard! A natural disaster like a tornado, hurricane, flood, major fire or earthquake is reported regularly in the news somewhere in the USA throughout any given year. Your community could also be hit by the economic devastation of the closing or relocation of the major employer in town. These kinds of events can devastate the whole community and require months or even years to recover! The key to recovery is preparation and the key to preparation is planning! Proverbs 15:22 says, 22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they [a]succeed.”

How can the Church in your community be prepared to provide hope and sustenance during these experiences? How can your church prepare your members?

Obviously, those congregations that have been directly impacted by the disaster will be primarily concerned with survival and repairs of their own families, homes and church buildings. However, those congregations that have prepared themselves for such a time will be able to bounce back more quickly and then respond to help others.

Congregations that have not been directly impacted and who have prepared to respond with hope and sustenance could be major agents of healing. It begins with vision and planning from a Team that your church has given responsibility for developing your plans.

Your Team will first take measures to promote the need for and provide the training for preparedness among your individual church families. The more families are prepared and self-sustaining after a disaster, the better they are free to assist their neighbors and be active with your Disaster Reponse Teams.

The next step for your Disaster Preparedness Team will be the formation of Disaster Response Teams of various descriptions. The Response Team you develop will be determined by the needs you identify in your community and the interest of your church members.

The best resource for your Disaster Preparedness Team will be the Disaster Relief organizations of your local Baptist Association and State Convention.

Here are the contact information for those organizations:

York Baptist Association Disaster Relief:

Mike O’Dell, mikeo@yorkbaptists.org, 803-984-1138.

Mike Wallace, mikew@yorkbaptists.org, 803-984-1844

South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief:

Randy Creamer, randycreamer@scbaptist.org, 800-723-7242

Sue Harmon, sueharmon@scbaptist.org, 800-723-7242

Also, see the resources at the end of this article…

When the Cataclysmic Event Becomes Reality:

Mathew 24:21-22 says, 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no [a]life would have been saved; but for the sake of the [b]elect those days will be cut short.

I must be honest, the “saber rattling” from North Korea, the recent statement by Alexander Putin concerning his ability to knock out our military ships with an EMP (Electro-magnetic Pulse) and the concurrent black outs in several of our largest cities last week has given me pause to think!

What If? What if one or more of our enemies decide to attack the USA? Apart from Kim Jong Un impetuous actions, How would a rational enemy attack us? They certainly would not attack our defenses directly! No, they will look for our “Achilles Heal”. Our dependence on electronics and electricity! They would find a way to minimize or destroy our ability to activate our massive defense system by simply turning off the electricity and frying our circuits!

How would this be possible? A well placed EMP, a coordinated cyber-attack or even a well-coordinated series of home- made bombs in just the right power substations could cause a rolling black out that would eventually shut down the power grids across the east coast and stop our ability to communicate, provide essential services and electronic business transactions! We are told that just replacing the transformers that would be destroyed might take years because most of them are made in foreign countries and very few are stockpiled here in the USA.

Can you imagine the chaos that would soon erupt in this country when whole cities ran out of water because there is no power to the wells? What about food? How could the grocery stores restock if their computers are down, or how can the trucks deliver when the diesel is not available because the pipelines and pumps are down? How long would it take for the average household to be completely out of water and food?

Now, imagine thousands of people roaming our communities desperate for water and food. How long would it take for the, now disrupted government agencies, to provide water and food in enough volume to meet the demand?

This is a horrific story that I pray never happens. But it very well could happen! Indeed, a quick reading of the eschatological writings in the Bible reveal that these kinds of things will precede the Last Days! So how should we prepare?

It seems to me that if each church encourages each of their church families to prepare for a major disaster, like a hurricane, E-F 5 tornado, or 1886 type earthquake, we could be in the position to provide sustenance and hope for our families and neighbors in times of major disaster or even cataclysmic failure of the power grid. By taking a few steps now we could position ourselves to be free to minister to the community in a desperate time.

This kind of preparation is fairly simple. It will require each of us to do the following:

  1. Plan for water: Water is always the number one need in a wide spread disaster. Keep a short supply of bottled water on hand at all times. Collect rain water in barrels. If you have a well, purchase a hand pump. Know where water sources are located within walking distance of your house. Learn how to build a DIY water filtration system or purchase one.
  2. Plan for food: A wide spread disaster will limit the amount of food available for a period of time. Stock your shelves with at least one month’s supply of food. Three months or more will be better (Plan to have enough to share. You will have many family and friends and neighbors who will be in need). You may want to look at the possibility of purchasing a supply of dried food products from a “prepper” supply source. These products have a 20-year shelf life. Start a garden. Get in the habit of raising your own food and you will have a supply when you need it. (You may want to purchase some heirloom seeds that are not GMO (genetically modified organism) so that your plants will produce seed that will produce more plants. GMO seeds don’t produce more than one generation of plants)
  3. Plan for Heat: If the power goes down how will you heat your home in the winter? What alternative heat sources do you have or can you acquire?
  4. Plan for Medication: Can you have a supply of your medications that will last more than a few days?
  5. Plan for the Community: Now that your family is provided for, is it possible for your church to become a place of hope in disaster? What can you do to position your church to be the place in the community that meets needs and shares hope when calamity grips your community?
  6. Here are some resources:
    1. Family Preparedness Manual
    2. Church Preparedness Manual

 

  1. Call on me for any assistance. Please let me know what you are developing so we can coordinate efforts among our churches.

Final thoughts:

We know that our Lord is coming soon! We know that the victory is ours because Jesus has won! We know we have confidence in Him and His plans for us! However, we also know that the days will be difficult before He returns and, depending on your view of eschatology, we may be in for some terrible trials. Luke 21:11 says,” 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great [a]signs from heaven.”

 

Certainly, we are no more deserving of peace and tranquility than our brethren suffering unspeakable persecution in the Middle East today! And this we also know; the USA is not mentioned in any of the eschatological references in the New Testament so something is going to take us out of the picture. I hope it is the rapture that disrupts our ability to be involved, but who knows?

 

This I do know, Jesus has called us to be faithful to the end as His witnesses and his hands and feet in this world. I pray we will be prepared to do so.

 

I would love for you to share this as an encouragement to any who wish to be faithful until He comes.

 

Thanks,

 

Mike O’Dell