We believe that Christians should serve in ways that advance the gospel, wisely steward our resources, and engage the hearts of those around us in strategic and life-changing ways. Below are three keys to identifying the the best ways to help in the midst of tragedy.
The most effective kind of help is delivered in the context of relationship. This doesn't mean you have to know someone who was affected by a disaster. Look for trusted organizations that already have relationships within the affected region. This might be a church or non-profit in the area, a Watermark partner, or even a trusted organization that deploys assistance around the globe.
What about GoFundMe, Facebook Fundraisers, etc.?
Be especially careful about donating to "crowdsourced" funding opportunities. While you may feel like you're helping, oftentimes it means giving without either knowing the recipient or how the money will be used. For disasters in the U.S., keep in mind that homeowners insurance generally provides emergency assistance and immediate relief for the families that have been affected.
The phases of disaster response are Rescue, Relief, Recovery, and Development.
It's important to match our type of help with the stage. In the middle of a crisis, offering "Recovery" or "Development" tends to create difficulties for those it intends to help.
In the Rescue and early Relief stages, most of us can be most helpful by supporting organizations that are prepared to serve with excellence. Someone with very particular skills (healthcare professionals, for example) might volunteer with an organization like this. But for most people, our funds are more effective than our hands and feet during this stage.
Eventually the Relief stage moves into the Recovery stage. By this time, media attention has moved on. Yet, there may be a myriad of opportunities to respond to the disaster, including pastoral care, demolition and construction, moving and storing belongings, or short-term provision of food, water, and temporary shelter. At this point, hands-on volunteering may be really useful, as long as a trusted organization or church is coordinating the efforts.
In the Development stage, we can help people and cities move forward. People's livelihoods, quality of life, access to education and health care, and other developmental aspects of a community become priorities. At this point, a deeper commitment to the long-term conditions of a region is the focus. Volunteering often means investing time, talents, and resources long-term in the community.
For most of us, the skills and material goods we might want to bring “in the moment” are better used in the months after the initial relief effort. As mentioned above, monetary donations to a trusted organization are often what is needed most. Organizations can use these funds to meet the most critical needs, whether that is water, warmth, financial help, shelter, or rescue.
Texas Baptist Men and Samaritan's Purse have a long history of effective efforts in Jesus' name and often the first to respond to natural disasters. We consistently recommend these organizations to our members who want to donate their time and resources in the wake of a natural disaster.
Watermark has a designated fund for disaster relief and aid. Any resources given to this fund will be set aside for trusted, like-minded partners and churches in areas affected by natural disasters and to deploy teams for relief efforts.
Feel free to reach out to the External Focus Team (Watermark's community outreach team) with any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding our Disaster Relief plan or potential partner organizations.