Following a major flood that had impacted the city of Franklin, Indiana in 2008, Grace UMC congregants addressed their disaster preparedness needs by asking themselves, “How would we respond differently if flooding happened again?” This question was a starting point for the church to strengthen their relationship with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and form partnerships with emergency response organizations, as well as neighbors and leaders throughout the surrounding community.
Forming those relationships launched the church into a season of discernment and preparation, which is still in process and going strong. The church began by having 50 members attend a Disaster Response Connecting Neighbors training provided by the Mission and Justice Ministries Team of the Indiana Conference. Designed by UMCOR, the training included three modules that prepare families, churches, and the community to respond sensibly, effectively, and with a Godly presence during times of disaster.
Following their training, church members formed a task force and began putting together a disaster response plan to ensure that they were well-prepared to handle a major disaster and provide refuge to the community in a worst-case scenario.
During the next year, church members communicated with disaster response organizations from around Indiana, including the Red Cross and local emergency response and law enforcement agencies. Church members learned that each county should have a Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), and they began to plan in cooperation with church leaders. They offered cooperation and resources to the mayor, became certified as a Red Cross Shelter, and have made the church available to a nearby nursing home in case of a power outage. The church has also been equipped to house and feed emergency response personnel during a disaster event.
Several church members took additional training to form a Community Emergency Relief Team (CERT). Senior Pastor Rev. Andy Kinsey is pleased that the congregation isn’t stopping there. “After a year’s work and preparation, their enthusiasm has not faded, “ he said. “Grace’s people are ready to be front and center facing disaster.”
Church members are currently working on completing a skills inventory of the congregation and will be looking into how their Steven Ministry can provide emotional and spiritual care for responders and survivors, in addition to their disaster response ministry they provide for the Franklin community.
“All disasters are local,” shared Rev. Cindy Garver, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. “The local church is a major thread in the overall fabric of a community’s disaster defenses. The visible presence of the local church is essential in any type of disaster.”
In her role, Cindy follows her passion for challenging local congregations to take charge of leading and serving their community during times of disaster and to ensure that they are adequately prepared to be the boots on the ground.
In regards to a local church developing a disaster response ministry, Cindy added, “Disaster response is an effective ministry by which we become instruments of God’s healing and hope. By becoming the hands and feet of Christ, we share in a commitment to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of people in a time of crisis.”
Connecting Neighbors training is offered to your local church, cluster or district to help you become a guiding force during disaster response event. To learn more, visit inumc.org/DisasterResponse or contact Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Cindy Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register for fall disaster response training events, in Fort Wayne on Oct. 5 or in Evansville on Nov. 9.
“Is thy heart right towards thy neighbor?” – John Wesley