Disasters and the local church

Disaster management is rarely taught in seminaries or Bible colleges. Yet, in times of crisis, church members will often look to their spiritual leaders, as well as to local government, for help and direction. 

This book, Disasters and the local church (PDF 7.8 MB), is written for church leaders, in areas where disasters are common, who may find themselves engulfed by a crisis – be it flood or windstorm, drought or earthquake.

 

‘We were here before the disaster, we were here during the disaster and we are here after the disaster. Agencies like yours will come and go, but the church will always be here.’
Pastor, Honduras, after Hurricane Mitch in 1998

Click on the links below to download sections of the book.

Introduction (PDF 240 KB)
Chapter 1 – The local church and disasters (PDF 735 KB)
Chapter 2 – Organising ourselves (PDF 951 KB)
Chapter 3 – Risks, needs and capacity assessments (PDF 919 KB)
Chapter 4 – Displaced people (PDF 1.5 MB)
Chapter 5 – Floods (PDF 936 KB)
Chapter 6 – Windstorms and landslides (PDF 1.2 MB)
Chapter 7 – Drought and food insecurity (PDF 1 MB)
Chapter 8 – Earthquakes (PDF 837 KB)  

In French (PDF 8.8 MB)
In Portuguese (PDF 4.5 MB)
In Spanish (PDF 9 MB)
In Nepali (PDF 4.7 MB)

Click here for more Tearfund material on the church and disaster management (including case studies).

During Hurricane Mitch in 1998, large areas of several Central American countries suffered severe damage and loss of life. In Honduras, a small community near the river Choluteca was cut off by the flood waters for nearly two weeks. The local church fed and looked after the entire community. They mobilised a group of women to prepare and cook food, and motivated the youth to deliver it to elderly people and the house-bound. The church leader organised groups of men to repair houses and to collect firewood and food. This was stored in the church.  

After 14 days, a team from an NGO arrived by boat with supplies: they were amazed to see how well the church had done! When the team met the pastor, he said, ‘We were here before the disaster, we were here during the disaster and we are here after the disaster. Agencies like yours will come and go, but the church will always be here.’

Churches often have significant resources which can be used in times of disaster – their buildings, their compound and the skills and resources of their members. They are a committed group of people who are motivated by compassion and can be mobilised to respond. Groups within the church can also participate in pre-disaster training and contingency planning.

Disasters and the local church has eight chapters, four of them relevant to all disaster types and the other four dealing with specific types of hazard. The earlier chapters explain the particular strengths of the local church in disaster situations, and give advice on how to set up disaster committees and volunteer teams. There are also tables and templates for planning small projects, carrying out needs assessments and analysing the risks facing the community. Practical guidance is given on how to meet the needs of displaced people – particularly the more vulnerable groups – for food, water, sanitation and shelter. The church’s role in providing emotional and spiritual help is also explored.

The four specialised chapters give more information on preparing for and responding to particular types of disaster – floods, storms and landslides, droughts and earthquakes. There are also suggestions on actions to take to reduce long-term risks.

Written and illustrated by Bill Crooks and Jackie Mouradian (co-authors of Umoja), this book contains a wealth of practical information, much of it useful to NGOs and other faith communities, as well as to churches. Case studies, discussion questions and Bible study notes complete this valuable resource.