WEA: Guidelines for Responding to Disaster

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Composed in response to the Dec. 2004 Asian tsunami

By Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General/CEO, World Evangelical Alliance

Whenever a generous outpouring of humanitarian aid begins in response to a disaster, it is important to ask questions that will help guide your response as a congregation or as an individual. As followers of Jesus we want to reflect His compassionate concern for the suffering in a way that will produce the greatest impact. Here are some questions and ideas for you to consider. 

1. Above all else pray for those involved in the crisis.  

2. Recognize that giving funds to your denominational program or to an experienced agency is probably the most effective way of assisting in the early days (weeks) of a crisis.  

3. In deciding which agency to give to ask:  

   a. Do we already have a relationship with a particularly organization or missionary?
   b. Does the agency (or agencies) we are considering helping have a track record of responding to major disasters?
   c. Does the agency (or agencies) reflect my/our ethos?
   d. How is the aid going to help the national church serve their community?
   e. Coordination is absolutely critical in responding to such a crisis. Will our gift assist in helping leverage the impact of other aid and decrease unnecessary duplication?

4. If your church has missionaries or partners in the affected region, be sensitive to their needs. They themselves may be traumatized by the situation. Have one person in your church serve as the communication point person in this, to avoid inundating your partner with e-mail.  

5. There will be a desire by many people to put together a team to go help. While this desire is admirable, it is imperative that you do this in partnership with an experienced agency. In normal circumstances it is challenging to facilitate short-term teams; in a major crisis it can be overwhelming. Ask your partner agency or denomination if they have specific personnel needs in the short term. As the long-term reconstruction needs become more evident, it might be more appropriate to send this kind of help later. However, before any team is sent we would urge you to follow the well-established best practices in short-term mission.  

6. Can you join with other churches in your community in developing a co-operative response to one country/town/city/village or project? This kind of focus will help you understand the impact you are making.  

7. Consider establishing a task force in your church to respond to a major crisis. This team can spearhead a fundraising drive in your church and community.  

The World Evangelical Alliance is made up of 128 national evangelical alliances located in 7 regions and 104 associate member organizations and global networks. The WEA is the world's largest association of evangelical Christians serving a constituency of 600 million people. The WEA is a voice to governments, media, and other faith communities and holds consultative status at the United Nations.