As one who has responded to several disasters, I often get asked by people how they can help when disaster strikes. To answer that, I have repurposed an acronym that we often associate with safety — PPE.
First, and foremost, Pray! Prayer isn’t simply something that we ought to do. Together with God’s Word and His Spirit, prayer ought to direct everything we do. When disaster strikes near or far, talk to God and seek His perspective and direction for how to respond. It is in prayer that we begin to gain God’s heart of compassion for the hurting and broken people of this world. Prayer leads us to seek God’s will to be done rather than us pushing our agenda. Prayer is talking, it is asking, it is listening, and it is responding. Prayer is conversation with God and when we pray about disaster situations, we find ourselves better able to understand how God would have us respond.
Secondly, our prayer time ought to lead us to Prepare. Find out what the actual needs are in disaster areas in general and in the current disaster specifically. It does very little good, and at times is very counterproductive, to show up in a disaster area with things that no one needs or with things that are needed but are already over-supplied. In the current disaster response in Kentucky, many relief distribution centers are turning away donations of goods and clothing because the supply is simply outpacing the need. Do an inventory of what God has put into your life for you to share. Connect with a reputable organization or local church in the disaster area to see how your inventory of skills and abilities match up with what is needed. Prepare your heart and mind to stay focused on the needs of others and learn how you can help even if it requires you to step well outside of your comfort zone.
Thirdly, our prayer and preparation should lead us to a time when we will Equip those who can help. The equipping can involve giving of money, of goods, and/or our time. Each of these donations should always be given in light of what is actually needed rather than based on what we want. Learn to give generously and freely of your time and possessions in ways that glorify God rather than yourself. God has designed us to work together and serve together in a way that when we join in partnership with others, we find that He is able to accomplish much more through us than ever could have been done by the individual efforts alone. When you pray and prepare, I believe that God will not only equip you to serve, but that He will use you to equip others who may be able to serve in ways that are not your calling, or that you simply can’t do.
When it comes to equipping those who help, whether with your finances or your time and abilities, I highly recommend partnering with International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES).