The title of this blog post may seem flippant. That is not my intent. In our fast paced, media driven society we are oftentimes ruled by our computers and TVs, whatever catches and holds our attention, captures our hearts and wallets. Unfortunately, as soon as another breaking story occurs our attention spans break with it. The recent plague of natural disasters has made this all too evident.
As the waves of earthquakes began, a wave of volunteers followed. During a time of year when group applications normally trickle in for various summer projects and engagement options, the short-term office saw a surge in the number of willing applicants. Individuals and congregations also responded through monetary gifts as well. We found that we could not get information updated fast enough. People wanted to hear from us, they wanted to know what they could do. This remained true for over a month. Then the Chilean earthquake struck, and then the one in Turkey. Landslides in Uganda were also in the news. And just this past week, another 6.9 aftershock has once again shook Chile. How can anyone possibly keep up with this devastating news? How can we respond? In what order? How do you prioritize when the need is so great and so widespread?
CBF has always maintained that we are NOT a first response organization. Instead, we assess the situation, gather the necessary resources, and respond at the appropriate time. As we find ourselves now entering into two separate international disaster response situations, we do so with prayerful caution. A holistic multi-year strategy has already been laid out for our efforts in Haiti. As of this week, a master response calendar has been designed to coordinate efforts between Cooperative Baptist and American Baptist churches. Working in tandem, these two organizations will be addressing basic human needs, and establishing long-term networks for transformational development. Due to the pre-existing void in infrastructure, ministry will be broad-based. Churches will be rebuilt. Schools will be reestablished. Homes will be erected. Clinics will service patients. Quite simply, life will go on, but with a renewed Hope.
In Chile, the response will look quite different. Through our ongoing partnership with the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Chile (UBACH), affected local churches will be our response focus. Due to the nature of this country’s well-fu nctioning infrastructure, widespread reconstruction has begun. Although roads are being repaired, the airport has reopened, and businesses are once again up and running, churches and church properties remain in a state of disrepair. Immediately after the intial quake, UBACH leadership deployed a scouting expedition to the most affected areas. This motorcade delivered supplies and gathered information. To date, several churches have either been totally destroyed or heavily damaged. Once a thorough damage assessment has been completed, we will be better able to respond. Direct church to church partnerships will be the primary platform for this engagement.
In a age of 24 hour news coverage, sometimes we can overload ourselves on information.( I find that this “sensory overload” frequently occurs when I visit loud restaurants with tvs and extensive menus.) The same condition could be applied to our disaster response efforts. With the needs bombarding us through the media, with stories being shared from local pulpits, at times we find ourselves stagnated and unable to respond. During this season of international distress, may we not grow weary in our response efforts. May we each seek ways for our congregations to respond. May we pray fervently for peace and strength as our brothers and sisters rebuild their lives. May we give what we can to these ongoing response efforts. Every dollar helps! May we also seek to go if we can. Consider active disaster response service through CBF. We continue to have weeks open for groups to respond. Trained medical teams, gifted construction crews, and even strong backs and willing hands are needed. May these ongoing efforts not be seen as competing issues but as two unique opportunities for the people of God to actively live out their Faith.
The issue of X vs Y has been raised in Christianity since for a long time.
I see it as a matter of “priorities in fulfilling the mission of the Kingdom.”
Mission organizations, churches, and individuals should examine their priorities:
What is the main reason for being?
How do we best fulfill God’s will at this time?
What is more important for the organization: leading persons to Christ or changing society at large?
Consider following a judicious pattern of mission strategy with some discretionary judgment.
In my humble opinion, CBF has been reacting to “disasters” since the 9/11 tragedies and the other part of the mission–evangelism and church extension has been reduced as an option that may or may not be in the agenda of institutions.
Hopefully all of us will be responsible to embrace a “wholistic view of the mission of God in the world.