Pastor to Pastor: How to Prepare Your Church for the Next Disaster
By: Rev. Jack Womack
In 2017 we were all advised that a significant rain event was coming our way. The exact time and date were unsure, but everyone said it was coming. On Saturday, the rain came and it appeared that we had luckily missed the bulk of it. That evening about 10:30 PM, my wife and I prepared to get some sleep before Sunday and noticed a little water in the house. Within a few minutes, a little water turned in to eight inches in the entire house. That is when we realized how unprepared we were.
Important papers were getting soaked, pictures and memories stored in the bottom drawers of chests and cabinets were beginning to float. We waded through the water picking up as much as we could on the way, when we realized that we also had power strips on the floor behind the television and other appliances. We skipped the idea of sleep and began a process that would last until after Christmas- saving, discarding, cleaning, praying.
We are Gulf Coast folk. We lived through Carla and Allison and Ike. We know what can happen but we, like so many, didn’t think it would happen to us. Learning from that experience we now work really hard to prepare as we go so that when something takes place, like flood warnings, we don’t get caught again.
Friends when that much rain takes place in a specific area, anyone is in danger of flooding. Water may not rise from the street, but it may not be able to get out of back yards and courtyards. Homes and businesses, yes churches too, need to have thought through the process of protecting important documents and in modern times, our data bases. When the storm comes, it may not be possible to run down to the office and take care of things. Help will be hard to attain since everyone has their own issues to deal with.
Power strips, computers and other electronics should be situated so that they are NOT at risk when windows break, water rises, or other mishaps take place. We recall the Scriptures that remind us to “Be Ready” and they can be helpful in times of turbulent weather as well.
The weather forecasters do the best they can. Sometimes they warn and nothing takes place, but it only takes once for them to be right. The process of recovery is slow. It is painful. And it is never over. Some things will never be the same. In our case the love of friends and our faith community kept us going. Those of us that were affected became close friends. We became acquainted with neighbors that we had previously barely known.
Churches can utilize their directories and social media to contact members and to stay in touch through the storm as well as the recovery period. The situation becomes overwhelming quickly so folks may not know to ask for help. Planning ahead of time will have processes or persons in place to see who needs help and what they need. Other churches that are unaffected may have resources and people that are willing to help. The reality is that those affected will feel very alone and lost and need to know that they are not alone. Knowing what resources are available and having a coordinator or point person to handle communications can ease the process for everyone.
What if we did much of this work when there was no storm? What if we paid attention to the details of our lives and relationships before we were in crisis? What if we shared the mistakes made with those lucky enough to have avoided the trials so that they might not suffer the pain and loss that we did? What if we didn’t wait until the last minute?
Are you ready?