How to Help Victims of Natural Disaster

An important update for locals:   Ider Baptist Church will accept donations for the Moore, OK area through June 8th. The Ministry Center on Dogwood Drive across from the church will be the drop-off location. PLEASE DO NOT BRING CLOTHES. Items we will be accepting are:  diapers, shovels, boots, batteries, flashlights, chain saws, bar oil, gas cans, gloves, safety glasses, garbage bags, bottle water, tarps, snacks, toiletry items and anything of this nature that would be helpful. (See post below) These items need to be in NEW OR GOOD CONDITION. Ministry Center hours  are Monday (excluding Memorial Day) through Saturday 9:30 until 2:30. Questions can be directed to our church office at 256-632-2425.  You can also leave a comment and I will be glad to get back with you.

 

More than once this week – and once is too many – I’ve sent notes to people I care about whose communties have been visited by the horror of tornadoes.  First there was Granbury, Texas where I was privileged to serve Lakeside Baptist Church for a women’s conference and still consider those girls dear friends. Now I’m grieved to the marrow of my bones to learn of the loss of life in Oklahoma where one of our best college friends lives with his family as a professor at OBU.  We also have a church member serving out of the Air Force base in OKC.  We were so relieved to learn they are all safe but our joy was short-lived after hearing of the loss of the darling school children who in just a few short hours would not have been in those school houses but cuddled with parents and loved ones in safe places in and around their homes. God be near. My heart can’t take it.

After the initial shock the first question we ask ourselves in these times is, “How Can I Help?”  Two years and a couple of months ago before our own storm of April 27,  I couldn’t have answered that question but now with a certain degree of experience I can give you a starter list of ways you can best serve those who are suffering.

Collections:

A word about clothing.  As well-meaning as clothing collection is it was our experience that we were quickly overwhelmed and had no means of storing or processing the massive amounts of bags and boxes that arrived.  While some clothing is needful, no one needs used boy scout uniforms circa 1977 or the cast-off’s from the last Ugly Christmas Sweater Party or a cd of 101 fart noises mixed in a box of mis-matched shoes. (All things received in our own ministry center.  But on second thought the fart cd made us laugh wildly in a time when we could barely muster a smile.)  Please don’t read this as ingratitude but think practically and give in the same manner.  Work pants and shirts.  Clean socks.  New underwear.  Thick work gloves.  All great choices.

 

Batteries:  Yes and Amen.  We had to drive miles and miles to a store with electricity only to find the battery supply wiped clean.  C and D and the big square flashlight batteries are most needed.

Flash Lights:  Self-explanatory.

Filled Gas Containers:  If you are local to the affected areas then don’t underestimate the value of a 5 gallon container filled with fuel to families working to clean up their homesites and run generators.  If you are taking supplies in, take empty containers to be filled and distributed there.

Disposable Ice Chests/Coolers:  In our area a local ice company parked freezer trucks with ice available for free but if you’ve lost everything or are without electricity you need multiple coolers.  These disposable versions were gold to us.

Non-perishable Food:  Think peanut butter or canned soups/spaghettis, etc that can be put in a metal pan and heated on a grill.  Juice boxes and packaged crackers are great for kids.  Long term people will have to stock pantries from scratch so that’s when canned vegetables, dried beans, cooking oil, sugar, etc. will become more needed.  Check with any local churches that are feeding stations and see what groceries they need to prepare meals.  Some of them may have a generator and the ability to cook.

Sunscreen/Chap Stick and Bug Spray:  I’ve never seen worse sunburns than on those spending extended days outside.  And outside also equals bugs.  It’s the simple things.

First Aid:  With hard work and injury comes scrapes, cuts, blisters etc.  One of our most useful gifts from family was a well-stocked first aid kit with band aids, Neosporin, peroxide, bandages and adhesive tape to name a few.

Tarps:  Many homes are damaged if not destroyed and need tarps to cover roofs, etc. until insurance adjusters can arrive.  There are never too many tarps.

Large Black Trash Bags:  A must have for clean up

Chainsaw Fuel/Bar Oil:  Luke had to buy a new chain saw because he burned ours up in the first day of clearing.  We were grateful for fuel and bar oil.  Also, if you are feeling very generous, send chain saws.  They are practically disposable when used hour upon hour.

Camp Stoves/Coleman Fuel/Grill Propane:  Remember again many standing homesites will be without electricity for many days.  When we could finally get meat  we cooked on a grill until the power was restored. (13 days – ugh)

Sleeping Bags, Blankets and Pillows:  People and families sleeping in shelters need bed linens.  These were in high demand.

Rakes, Shovels, Yard Equipment: Self-explanatory

Cleaning supplies:  Disinfectants, bleach, mops, brooms, shop rags, etc.  Many standing buildings/homes are completely coated inside with dirt from blown out windows and doors.  We had to wash walls and basically disinfect everything in our house from all the dirt and debris that blew through it.

Rubbermaid Containers:  Those sorting through belongings need somewhere to store them.  More gold.

Water:  Bottled water was good but plentiful for us.  If you are local and have means to transport it in then by all means do. However, if you wanted to fill a trailer and take it in from outside then use the space with something more scarce.

Diapers/Formula/Baby Food:  Huge need.  Remember, no electricity

Animal Food:  Because dogs and cats get hungry too.

Hygiene Products:  Toothpaste – we brushed in bottled water until the running water was on again.  And deodorant.  Lots of deodorant.  I’ve never felt so stinky in my life.

Femine Products:  Let’s just say it’s no fun time to endure the curse.  Stupid Eve.

Paper Towels and toilet paper:  Because wiping never goes out of style.

Towels and Wash Cloths:  Remember bathing may be limited to bottled water and a wash cloth and bar soap.  You will never feel more equipped to survive a zombie apocolypse than after living a couple of weeks without hot running water.  I’m pretty sure I can live through anything now.

Service

If you are local to the area then your opportunities for ministry will vary slightly from work groups.  You will be able to mobilize with faith and service agencies more long term while others need more focused tasks.  I will try to give ideas for both.

Food:  One thing I did not realize until our own tornado was that Red Cross Meals were actually prepared by the Southern Baptist Mobile Kitchens and packaged in Red Cross containers.  These two agencies worked beautifully together here and I’ve never been more proud to be a Baptist Girl.  If you are local and can volunteer to either deliver meals or be a distribution point for those you will find yourself all the ministry you can handle.

As wonderful as the Red Cross Meals were, it takes them a few days to be mobilized.  This is where the local church is a manifestation of Jesus.  In this area, our dear friends at Chestnut Grove Church were closer to the affected areas and so we joined forces and cooked and served meals from there.  They powered up with a generator and you’ve never seen a group of people just flat out get it done in Jesus’ Name.  If there was ever a shortage of volunteers from the neighboring churches I didn’t know it.  Devastated people came.  And they ate.  And they were filled – physically and spiritually.

Another moment I have to relive again.  There was a day early on when Luke and I were working at our own home clearing and boarding and tarping.  I remember being tired to my bones and just plain weary at the enormity of what had happened.  It was about then a group of children from our local Christian school pulled into the drive in back of pick up truck.  They had made sandwiches and had bags of chips, etc. along with coolers of cold drinks.  They were simply driving along seeking to bless people as they worked at their homesites.  One little boy opened his cooler and pulled out an ice cold Dr. Pepper.  If you know me, you know Dr. Pepper completes me and so to be offered this ice cold love was more than I could take in. I cried and looked straight in that child’s eyes and told him that Jesus used him to refresh me and remind me that He sees and cares about the trouble of His children.  That darlin’ thing looked so proud of himself.  I will never forget it and I certainly hope he doesn’t either.  Our small thing can be someone else’s everything.  When seeking to serve someone, it doesn’t have to be major to be meaningful.  A glass of water in His Name – or a soda in this case – will most assuredly satisfy many a thirst.   If you have children who want to be of help, this is such a great way to let them feel they are needed.

There was also a man, wife, and his children who drove down from Missouri to travel our roads with a small grill in the back of the truck who – get this – set up in front of our homes and grilled us a fresh hamburger because they wanted us to have a hot meal.  It was only a short couple of weeks that Joplin was hit and I have no doubt they ministered to their own in just the same way.  Just when you think there is no hope for humanity you see the best of us emerge.

 

Work Groups

If you can not deploy immediately do not despair.  There will be work for weeks and months and years from now.  Our church has been the honored host of work groups from 2011 until present who are still coming to help rebuild homes that have not been completed until now.  In the immediate days many hands are needed to help families go through the debris of homes and help them locate something, anything they can recognize from their lives and aid in general clearing/cleaning.  As time passes the efforts will become more focused on rebuilding.  The most important thing you can do is contact the Red Cross or if you are affiliated with a church – your denomination to learn of relief efforts and the locations from which they are based.  Many churches and relief agencies will be hosting and/or coordinating groups into the area.  Showing up is good but having a plan and a homebase of operations from someone local who can best direct your efforts is better.

 

Give

There are many of us whose gift will be financial and by all means, if that is what the Lord impresses upon you then do it abundantly.  If I were to give to an organization I would select the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief or the American Red Cross.  There is an area on both sites to designate your gift.  Also, there are many churches in the area who are doing vital work that can be in the best situation to evaluate needs and administer financial aid.  We were blessed with many substantial donations and it liberated us to buy supplies for building projects and provide financial assistance for uninsured families among many other things.  The best thing I know to tell you is to google area churches and make a few calls to determine the ministry most prepared to faithfully administer the gifts.  I believe by faith no reputable minister of the gospel will receive your donations if they are not equipped to see them distributed properly.

This is certainly no exhaustive list but maybe it is something to get you started in your desire to serve those suffering in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  If you have other ideas please feel free to add to these suggestions in the comments.  Above all, pray for these.  Pray comfort for those who have lost loved ones.  Pray shelter and provision for those who have lost homes and possessions.  Pray endurance for many long days ahead.  Pray Jesus when it seems He is nowhere to be found.  Perhaps what I learned most is that during these times of crisis when our faith is its most vulnerable, God is as close as a Dr. Pepper.  The suffering may not see Him, but they can certainly know what He looks like when we love like He loves.

I want to say thank you again to all those who sacrificially gave of your time and resources and who continue to do so for our area in North Alabama.  We are grateful.  We are changed.

 

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