Nothing has more potential to bring people closer to God and each other than a natural disaster. But it can also drive people apart. The mission of the Church in these situations is lived through a variety of responses. When hurricanes like Katrina, Rita and Irene have hit thriving communities, the effects are devastating and, in some cases, permanent. The grief over the loss of life incurred by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters is only magnified when folks awaken to the reality of the loss of home, domestic animals and a sense of “place.”
The Church has responded to these disasters through immediate pastoral care, longer-term rebuilding efforts, and the gifts of prayer and financial support. Many of the churches in the Diocese of Southern Ohio continue to send folks to the Gulf Coast to help the ongoing rebuilding efforts post Hurricane Katrina. Through the support of Episcopal Relief and Development, our combined financial contributions make it possible for that agency to provide relief to our sisters and brothers from flood-ravaged Vermont to earthquake victims in Haiti to those suffering from drought Africa. The ministry of presence, prayer and money all contribute to the hope that those who experience an encounter with individuals from the Church also encounter Jesus. It is gestures both large and small that bring hope to the devastated and begin the process of restoration.
In an attempt to assure that we in Southern Ohio have the capacity to respond appropriately to the unexpected ravages of nature, we have developed a relationship with the Lutheran Disaster Response of Ohio. Mary Bates is now the Disaster Coordinator not only for the Lutheran Church (through Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio) but also for our diocese as well. In 2012 we hope to have at least one person in every congregation trained by Woodward to serve as volunteers at the time of a disaster. She also works with Ohio Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Ohio VOAD), a collaboration of 41 faith-based and non-governmental agencies who respond during times of disaster. This organization works to prevent duplication of services and through collaboration extends the resources available to meet more needs.
If you would like to be part of a disaster volunteer corps, contact Mary Bates at email@example.com, or call her office at 740.732.6700.