HOW YOU AND THE CHURCH (Near and Far) CAN HELP AFTER DISASTER:
How the church can help disaster sufferers is something many are pondering.
In the early stages of a disaster the sufferers (or victims) have much support. Sadly as soon as the ‘initial stage of recovery’ has passed, the survivors carry on with their daily lives, leaving the sufferers to figure things out for themselves.
BE PRESENT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Commit to being a present help in the time of trouble for the long haul.
As our pastor put it this past weekend, “This is a MARATHON not a SPRINT.” Too often people show up as flash in the pan support and forget that there is more support needed. The influx and major support is necessary, but within a week or two helpers fall back into normal routines. They have a clear conscious thinking “I did my part” let someone else do the rest.
Who will be the “Someone else”? What happens when “someone else” doesn’t show up?
The church and its body miss a great opportunity to deeply LOVE the sufferers when they follow the pattern of the rest of the world by abandoning those in need with no long term connection or care.
As a church, let’s not abandon those who are suffering.
ADOPT A SUFFERING FAMILY (OR FAMILIES)
It is similar to what many churches do at Christmas time, except instead of loving on a family one day of the year, you commit to love and serve this family for an entire year. You read me right–12 full months!
Paul never entered an area and then left without following up, sending helpers, and staying connected to make sure they were okay. I’m challenging today’s church people to provide the same long term care!
Connect with suffering families
Understand the personal aspect of their loss. Some stuff is ‘just stuff’and can be replaced, while other items are sentimental and there is no replacements.
Some losses are of things needed for survival, while losses are considered frivolous, but still a very important part of developing a sense that everything is going to be okay.
Did they lose a nursery with a new baby on the way? Was there a teen daughter who lost her cosmetics? How about the 10 year old who loves books but lost them all? Dad might have lost his favorite fishing rod and Mom may no longer have her favorite lotion. These areas of needs touch the heart when someone steps up and addresses them.
They are not survival items so they go overlooked. After a disaster, sufferers MUST focus on survival. As the church, we are called to help meet all needs of the sufferers. Many people and organizations are eager to meet survival needs, but overlook personal needs that give a sense of balance and normalcy to those who have lost so much.
When the church body shows love by providing something that is comforting to the heart, they help life be a little less hard for those who are hurting in unimaginable ways.
Get to know your family
Get to know their needs, the extent of their losses, what each member enjoys or dislikes. What are their hobbies, ages, grades, sizes, careers, as well as their favorite foods, colors, movies, or authors? Note special dates like birthdays, anniversaries. Don’t ignore dates that may be particularly hard, like the anniversary of a loss. You are establishing a long term relationship with this family so you will want to connect in personal ways.
Remember your adopted family on their special and difficult days. Commit to help them with Christmas as well. Don’t miss opportunities to show them love. Any missed opportunity is a chance they will suffer alone and in silence.
Once you have gotten information, begin sending stuff to them. Initially you want to help your family meet immediate needs. (Food, water, clothes, baby items, cleaning supplies, gift cards, money) After you know your family has what they need to survive and be safe, then you can continue your relationship with them on a more personal level.
SEND CARE PACKAGES:
What does you family need to survive? What is something that would touch a heart need and make them feel special and loved? Each care package needs to addresses a heart need for each member of the family. Early on care packages are essential, but as time goes on, a care package “just because we love you and are thinking about you” goes a long way to making your family feel special. Always make sure a care package is personal.
SEND LETTERS and CARDS
Create a mailing campaign. (Not email or text.) While email, text, and phone will undoubtedly be a part of your relationship with the family; a mailing campaign will be essential to loving on your family!
Initially after the loss send letters or cards with prayers, scripture, and words of encouragement and love. Add gift cards to building supply places, Wal-Mart, and local restaurants
Let them know they have not been forgotten. In your letters and cards, allow the verbiage to change as the recovery process changes. Communicate your commitment to walk this path with them for the next 12 months.
Once the initial shock of the tragedy subsides, they need reminders that that they are loved. That God has not abandoned them or forgotten them, and neither have you. Allow God to lead you in what you write and send because often times He is the only one who knows what is going on in the sufferer’s heart and mind.
Letters and cards should arrive a minimum of once a week for the first 6 months. Every other week from 6-12 months. If you can send a care packages a couple of times the first 2-3 months, then once a month the rest of the time, that would be bonus!
Organize “mission trips” to go to your adopted family’s homes and help them with the labor! Adults and youth can both do this. These mission trips can be done at any time from the initial impact of the loss until the complete restoration of homes and property. If you get to the area and your teams finish what is needed at your adopted family’s home, you can reach out to others who need assistance in the community. ( You may need to connect with an organization or a church who is local to your family to help this be as effective as possibly)
THE RECOVERY MAY END, BUT THE RELATIONSHIP DOESN’T HAVE TO
There will come a time when your family has found a new normal and they are no longer in their season of suffering. Both of you have the choice to end the relationship or continue to love deeply. That is completely up to the two of you.
I have a feeling that if we as a the body of Christ were to love the sufferers in this way, we would have revival like that seen in the early church with multitudes being added to our numbers daily!
*I’d love to hear your God stories if your church (or you as an individual) make this commitment.
**To my knowledge nothing like this model exists anywhere. I had been praying and asking God what could the church do, and this came to mind. There are many people who need someone to walk the path of suffering with them. My prayer is that the church and her people step up to what God wants us to do—LOVE!
Please share this with all churches you have contact with. Let us as the body of Christ actively be the hands and feet of Jesus.
#AdoptAFamily #DisasterSufferer #DisasterHope #WhatTheChurchCanDo