Implementation | Response Principles
Now that you understand a biblical response to emergencies varies greatly from that of the secular world. How well your ReadyCity responds is a direct result of the biblical networking and preparing groundwork you have laid. You will want to review the networking and preparing sections frequently to continue to grow biblically as a ReadyCity.
The following Response Principles are not exhaustive, but they will offer some key concepts useful in any response plan. Since citywide biblical responses may vary with each incident, the principles of biblical response are helpful to your ReadyCity as they remain the same whether it is a large or small incident.
Operating Emergency Incident Response within the Local Community
Mobilizing Trained Emergency Pray-Care-Share & Together We Will Stand Teams
Celebrating Biblical Responses to Local Incidents
Communicating During Response
Biblically responding to emergencies of all kinds rests upon one’s own level of assurance to meet the needs of others in a crisis. We may not have medical skills or other skills we normally think of as emergency response, but we can answer the heart question, “Where is God in this?” that most people will ask after a personal crisis. Using the forms and plans you’ve already developed thus far for your organization, form your ReadyCity response plan. The chart below outlines the information flow as it builds upon each other to develop the final plan. In every incident you will need to modify the plan to meet the unique needs of the incident at hand, but the bulk of what you decide now as a ReadyCity will be useable ongoing.
Response Principles: Operating Emergency Incident Response within the Local Community
ReadyCity Incident Response Checklist:
The following checklist provides a general list of things to consider when developing a ReadyCity response plan for your city. The goal is to create the response plan before an incident occurs, then draw it out again for each specific incident and modify it with your ReadyCity team.
To further assist you in the development of your ReadyCity response plan, we’ve included in the download materials a sample response checklist which outlines some of the specific tasks that are recommended and useful in activating a group during an incident. These checklist responsibilities are broken out by role yet are comprehensive so that the incident commander can track the overall response in one place.
As you work through the checklists, consider the following in light of the Emergency Pray-Care-Share process Network.
- Who else with what expertise needs to be at the table?
- How can we expand our team?
- Who can support our leaders as backups even if not fully trained?
- How do we want to engage community partnerships for this incident?
- Who does what by when?
- What hazards have been identified in the community?
- What steps can we take to mitigate risks?
- What steps is the community taking to mitigate community-wide risks?
- How should ReadyCity work in this incident, if any, with public sector officials?
Prepare & Protect
- What are our priorities?
- What are our initial actions?
- What message(s) do we need to communicate, to whom, and by when?
- What if communication systems fail?
- Who are vulnerable populations and who may require aid? How will we deliver it?
- What are the hazards spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically?
- What are our needs for supplies, security, and other support?
- When do we mobilize and position emergency equipment?
- Do we evacuate or shelter-in-place? Recommend to other Christians?
- Have we provided enough food, water, shelter, and medical services?
- Have we initiated our own Ministry Continuity Plan (MCP)?
- Have we modified our Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) to fit this incident?
- Have we assessed, restored, or moved any of our own damaged services and systems?
- When do we begin to coordinate among local responders, government agencies, and private sector organizations?
- Has comprehensive relief been provided: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical?
- Were we able to help distribute disaster assistance for weeks after incident?
- What damage, if any, did we encounter?
- Did we form a community committee to plan long-term recovery?
- Did we replace our own supplies and repair infrastructure?
- Did we restore housing (or whatever your ReadyCity chooses to do citywide)?
- What gaps in our organization/community plans were revealed?
- What obstacles must we overcome or resolve before another response?
- What strengths in our organization/community plans were proven by this exercise?
- Who within and outside of ReadyCity do we need to meet with to develop and improve our emergency plans? What information do you need from them?
- List three to five short-term and three to five long-term actions for follow-up.
A ReadyCity means taking all Networking, Preparing, and Responding Steps you have completed up to this point and putting them into action!
Now that you have learned about crisis common to your city; networked with others to develop your readiness plans with supplies ready; and have even practiced plans...you are almost ready to respond!
The ReadyCity test comes at the point a real emergency happens to you or those God places in your path and how well you biblically respond.
As a ReadyCity role model in your community when any emergency occurs, whether it is on the road home from work, your friend calls and their son was killed in an auto accident, your church was burned down, you have five minutes to shelter in your home from a tornado, or you learn that a pandemic has been declared in your city, you want to be ready to give an answer for the hope of Christ within you. Any emergency, large or small, presents "Jesus" opportunities to respond as Christ would and to pray for those around you and find ways to serve them. You are in this place according to God’s providence to be His ambassador and His arms of rescue. Any emergency should cause you to ask “What does God want me to do?” In some instances, it is to bow your head in prayer, or it may be to report an incident anonymously to law enforcement without engaging with a suspicious person, or it may mean you take the gospel booklet out of your wallet. As believers, we can and should biblically respond.
With your ReadyCity leaders, consider the following questions regarding some of the potential emergencies that you identified in past chapters. Begin to think through how you would implement your own plans in the potential emergencies that you have identified. Have each leader identify how they would respond given the expertise they bring to your ReadyCity leadership.
Response Principles: Mobilizing Trained Emergency Pray-Care- Share Teams
Churches are great at preparing for events. They plan an event around a holiday, an outreach objective, or a worship service. But what happens if something unexpected happens? The things needed to prepare for an event are the same things needed to respond to a crisis. The only difference is that a crisis happens without being scheduled. CEN has found that the roles used in developing a City Emergency Team can also be used in planning for events, effectively increasing the capacity of the Christian community in times of disaster while strengthening the team dynamics for events. Once you’ve set up and established a City Emergency Team, you have the foundations in place to use Biblical Readiness as Outreach. This is done primarily through the development of Prayer, Care, and Share Teams.
Pray-Care-Share (PCS) Lifestyle Evangelism Basics
Prayer-Care-Share (PCS) promotes a relational evangelism lifestyle in which Christians take responsibility for witnessing to their friends and neighbors in three ways:
Prayer – to ask God for opportunities to give a testimony.
Care – to reach out and meet the needs of others as God leads.
Share – to explain one’s relationship with Jesus Christ and his offer of salvation when the right circumstance presents itself, and be prepared to lead the person into a relationship with Jesus.
Unlike other evangelism approaches, PCS encourages Christians to be obedient to God's leading by first investing the time to build a relationship with others. Prayer makes the Christian aware of people that God is directing them to be cared for. As one cares for them, they become receptive to what the Christian has to share about Jesus Christ.
The PCS lifestyle is valuable in emergencies in which people are already receptive to hearing about Jesus. In emergencies, the Christian who is ready to pray, care and share may be (more than at any other time) able to meet needs and lead people into a relationship with Jesus. CEN Chapters train Christians in a Prayer-Care-Share lifestyle so that they are ready and focused on the best ways to share Christ when the time is right.
CEN has provided an article in the downloaded materials called, “When is Sharing Christ Appropriate” to answer some of the questions and legal issues surrounding sharing Christ in times of disaster.
City Emergency Team Prayer-Care-Share (PCS) Basic Training
The key success factor in implementing PCS Teams is learning how to implement the principles of Pray-Care-Share (PCS) as part of the everyday lifestyle of your church before an emergency occurs. It is the familiar well-cultivated habits of a biblical PCS response that will surface in any emergency large or small. Your church emergency PCS plan offers the steps your church will take in this area so that all elements of your ministry are seamless in delivery. When you draft the PCS part of your plans you will know who will do what by when to ensure your mission is achieved.
Training the PCS Team in how to use your two plans is essential for them to respond quickly to emergencies both large and small.
The Emergency Pray-Care-Share approach cultivates a faith-sharing lifestyle in which Christians take spiritual leadership responsibility for their friends and neighbors. Clearly according to the book of Matthew – this is our responsibility. To assist your church in developing a Pray-Care-Share lifestyle, “Lighting the Way” (available in downloaded material) trains Christians on the practical skills of how to meet believers and non-believers at a point of need and guide them into recovery and spiritual restoration. Participants will learn the basics:
How to pray for others and how to discern what God is doin
How to find the right place and time to care for their needs
How to ask for the chance to share Christ and what to say
How to track their growth in lifestyle faith-sharing using Engel’s scale
Emergency PCS encourages Christians to invest the time to build a relationship by praying first, according to Acts 1:8, caring and then sharing.
Beginning with prayer, the Christian becomes aware of people that God is directing them to and of their needs. As the Christian cares for them, they become receptive to hearing about Jesus Christ. When prompted by God, the Christian earns an opportunity to share their story and give the person a chance to follow Christ. This process may take months or in some cases years; as responders know, relationships you cultivate in spiritual crisis are enduring.
PCS Team leaders along with ReadyChristians learn about the recovery programs, support groups and ministry opportunities available in their community that they can then share with people in need.
In an incident then, your PCS Officers are sharing Christ in effective and transforming ways. They assist with church events geared toward survivors where the Gospel is clearly presented and where assimilation in the church is sustained.
By taking the time to strengthen the Emergency PCS ministry leadership of your church, your emergency response will be a conduit for others to view your church as the Lighthouse survivors seek.
After 911, while many flocked to the churches in droves, within six to eight weeks 80% were walking out the back door.
The churches were not ready for such an influx; their CET/PCS Teams were not in place, and they were not focused upon the recovery of the survivors as their congregations became altered. In his first letter, Timothy reminds us to be ready to give an answer for the hope of Christ within. ReadyChristians led by CET/PCS Teams who are equipped to guide and lead in an emergency fulfills Timothy’s directive.
In emergencies, the CET/PCS Team and the preparation of their groups pay off. Instead of wondering what to do, ReadyChristians provide a complete response to crisis and find numerous opportunities to lead people into a new life with Christ.
We encourage you to take a moment and read the Article “Gospel 911” in the downloaded material. This article provides insight into how to approach people in crisis to share with them the hope that you have in Christ.
Steps to Develop Prayer-Care-Share Teams
Step 1: CET to identify and recruit Emergency PCS Team leaders who are already actively engaged in church and community Emergency PCS and to expand existing efforts to include an emergency focus. If a church does not have an Emergency Pray-Care-Share Team leader, then those who have been identified as gifted and called to these ministries within the local church should be trained using materials such as: Emergency Pray-Care- Share Basics, The Prayer Saturated Church (Prayer) by Cheryl Sacks, the Stephen’s Ministry (Care) guidebook, and Lighting the Way (Pray-Care-Share) guidebook by Mary Marr. These resources will help you develop an Emergency Pray-Care-Share focus in your church - the basis for your biblical, emergency response.
Step 2: CET to provide Emergency PCS Team training for emergency responses within the church so that the church may best respond to the spiritual, emotional, mental or physical needs of its members in crisis or the community at large within the ReadyCity response area. Any response in the church always begins with prayer, followed by transformational acts of caring as found in Ephesians 4 to be salt and light, as well as by giving an answer for the hope of Christ found in Timothy.
Step 3: CET to plan Emergency PCS Team response for all types of emergencies using methods common to its existing ministries to ensure volunteer back-ups and rotation of leadership to avoid burn out during incidents. By using your church Biblical Readiness Assessment results, your Emergency Pray-Care-Share leaders will determine where the weak areas are and then develop the plans needed to strengthen them. When in an active response
Emergency PCS Team leaders ensure your online church response group has updated prayer prompts for your congregation to keep responding; it also posts needs from the Care Team and it provides ways you can share your hope in Christ with survivors.
Step 4: CET Emergency PCS Team to provide strategic resources so the church will use effective and timely crisis- survivor resources such as Together We Will Stand response guide for ReadyChristiansSM who are praying, caring and sharing Christ with family members and friends in crisis.
Step 5: CET Emergency PCS Team to ensure the church celebrates the many ways your church is praying, caring and sharing Christ in and through the crisis.
Step 6: CET PCS Teams to guide in emergency PCS initiatives such as “Prayer Cans” placed strategically around your business community for the opportunity to pray for someone by name. Encourage those in need to connect with your church so the Care and Share Teams can follow up with them.
Step 7: CET PCS to ensure survivors are ministered to beginning with prayer so that everyone is responded to with prayer, care and share-all three. Share Teams are a part of both the initial and ongoing stages of the survivor response. Your Public Information Officer will either act as your Emergency Prayer Team leader or work closely with him, focusing your whole church with timely effective and accurate prayer prompts.
Step 8: CET to conduct Emergency PCS Team response drills to ensure ease of response within the church and with other local churches within the local CEN ReadyCity.
Response Principles: Celebrating Biblical Responses to Local Incidents
Biblical readiness means being spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically ready to respond to emergencies as faithful Christ-followers, praying, caring for survivors, and sharing the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
Anytime a Christian responds to an incident by praying for, caring for, and sharing the hope they have in Jesus Christ, they are responding biblically. These responses deserve to be celebrated. We encourage you to build times of celebration into your culture to recognize Christians who respond biblically and use those opportunities to further communicate the importance of biblical readiness.
Response Principles: Communicating During Response
Communication is vital to a successful response. As part of the ReadyCity package, CEN has provided a website with many tools that can be utilized to keep the communication flow happening in an incident.
One of the key features of the site is the ability to create Response Groups. Response Groups are designed to be a place for CEN members to share prayer requests, communicate updates about disasters, and encourage one another with helping to meet needs or by sharing stories of how they are able to help others through disasters of all types and sizes. You can invite the members of your ReadyCity to a Response Group and use it to communicate announcements, meetings, training events, prayer needs, care needs, share needs, and much more
ReadyCity Funding Model
Funding Scriptural Principles
The ReadyCity funding model is based on 10 principles of Transformational Giving taught by the Mission Increase Foundation (MIF) www.mif.org. The ten principles of MIF Transformational Giving are:
Principle 1: Every act of giving is first and foremost a statement about the faithfulness of God.
Principle 2: Transformational giving is based on the abundance and trustworthiness of God, not a theology of scarcity.
Principle 3: It is better to give than to receive.
Principle 4: Champions connect with organizations for the purpose of enhancing their mutual impact on the cause, not primarily for the purpose of funding organizations to impact the cause on their own.
Principle 5: Transformational Giving relationships between champions and organizations are primarily peer- level accountability relationships, not friendships or organizational support relationships.
Principle 6: The champion, not the organization, is called to be the primary means of advancing the cause within the champion's spheres of influence.
Principle 7: The relationship between champion and champion is as important as the relationship between champion and organization.
Principle 8: Giving is not the process but rather the result of the process of a champion being comprehensively coached to share the cause effectively within his or her sphere of influence.
Principle 9: Giving is learned, not latent, in champions.
Principle 10: Champions connect with each other and with organizations not according to the amount of their giving but by the degree of comprehensive personal ownership they are exhibiting in the cause.
The Mission Increase Foundation training is found in the “Resources” section of www.readycity.org
Gospel 911 – Understanding the Crisis
The biggest emergency for the Church is that Christians do not know how to share their faith appropriately in crisis. Our job as Christians in crisis is to be strong in Christ, not weak. We have hope in God through Christ Our Lord and we are His ambassadors to a needy world. Our work will be rewarded if we trust in God for our reward, not insisting upon earthly rewards on our own terms. God uses circumstances like emergencies of all kinds to manifest his care and love for each of us. We need to put away other idols or distractions of time and priority to focus on what is important to Him - bringing His children safely home.
The good news is that you know a lot more than you think you do about how to pray, care and share. You just need to understand the crisis and understand the opportunity:
Understand the Crisis - “The bridge is burning and there is nowhere to go and no turning back!”
Often, survivors of crises will say, "This is more than I can handle!" and, Where do I get help?" Ninety percent (90%) will ask, “Where is God in this?” But what do you do and say when someone’s bridge is burning? Remember how Elijah asked God, "Where are you in this?" Elijah knew that God had the answer even when He seemed nowhere to be found. We all need to ask Him to make sense out of our crisis. Just as Job 7:19-20 and Jeremiah 20:7 shows us, God will make clear the path in the midst of pain and confusion, but we must ask.
Ask for help? According to the International Critical Incident Foundation, a 2001 report showed that 59% of trauma victims are likely to seek assistance from a trusted friend or clergy, as compared to 45% from a physician or counselor. You are that trusted friend! Why? You have a trusted friend, Jesus, at your side.
There are three typical responses before those in crisis ask for help: denial, resistance, and acceptance. To cope with crisis requires acceptance. In order to soar above crisis and experience renewal, it is essential to learn what God wants us to learn or we will endure more pain. God wants us to learn trust. He will do whatever it takes to teach us. When we learn it, he has promised he will always show us a way through the pain.
Those who respond with acceptance recover more completely and help others more passionately. How do we as followers of Christ live in acceptance of whatever the circumstance? How do we move others to a point of acceptance? Through PCS.
Christian took his job as a Christian seriously and prayed, cared and shared with a neighbor in crisis. The neighbor had just come to the U.S. from Albania and four weeks later her new husband committed suicide. She could not go back to Albania. She could not speak English and express her grief, get a job or deal with her affairs. Christian prayed for her by name, cared for her with tangible loving visits, used his English as a Second Language (ESL) experience and taught her English, grieved with her, and helped her find a job in another state where the woman accepted Christ in a Messianic Jewish church within four months. As tough as it may seem, the crisis was also an opportunity; an opportunity to PCS. It was an Albanian women's chance, far from home, to find her Savior. Emergency PCS in action!
Understand the Opportunity
God uses calamity to bring the focus on Him. It is a last resort for God after trying all other ways, lovingly, patiently, to bring us back into relationship. It is a severe mercy, but wise Christians understand and are able to help others understand from personal experience and numerous examples in the Bible how faith can triumph over great tragedy and lead to a fulfilling relationship with God. Even in very large disasters, crises are personal to each individual involved. Our Lord is in the heart-healing business and we are his hands and feet. God understands heartbreak. Bad people crucified His Son. Heart emergencies need godly heart experts. What do heart experts know?
The heart surgery process brought on by a crisis is similar no matter what the crisis. When Elijah faced his crisis, he knew that he first needed rest. Elijah fell asleep and actually isolated himself and only then he sought God’s whisper of Hope. He found a friend in Elisha and God cared for him by giving him food and shelter. Elijah was instructed by God to not get stuck in his own recovery but to help others. Then he got busy himself to help others, not himself …..it was only then true Hope resided in his own heart to share the Good News with others. (I Kings 19)
Wallowing in self-pity and helplessness will delay any recovery. People who are in crisis often have confused thinking and are vulnerable to what they are being told, whether it is to sit down or fall down. When those in crisis turn to God they put their eyes on Him and others, and off themselves. It is not a time to trivialize their weaknesses but to celebrate their admission of weakness. That is the first step to healing and walking with God forever.
The pain of any crisis makes our defenses lower and it gets our attention in every area of life - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. Pain forces us to admit "need," including our need for God.
Just think of it, why do people call 911 when they are in trouble? They think someone will hear their plea. They hope they will help. They want a solution to their problem. And, they know that someone is trained, willing, able, and ready to help the instant they call.
It is like that when people are in crisis. The Bible says: “Please God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord and help me. Please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior. O Lord do not delay.” Psalm 70:1,5.
God will rescue the poor and needy. We do not have to wonder IF He will. He will when they cry out to Him. “But how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14 As Christians, and as disciples, we are all the priesthood of believers, the ones who must share when those in crisis cry out for more than their physical needs to be met. When they are hurting, confused and hopeless who will lift them up?
God will use the trials, tragedies and heartache to develop the character and strength of a victim if he will allow Him to do so. Trials and tragedy come to all people, both good and bad people.
There are things God allows that He does not desire or directly cause – like allowing free-will. Some choose wrongly which results in more pain. With Christ tragedies become triumphs.
"Where is God in this?" is a common reaction to emergencies of all kinds from Christians as well as seekers. Whether it is vast loss of life or a personal emergency, all emergencies are big to someone.
How do we as Christians, share the Hope that is within us in these moments?
While each emergency (whether personal, community-wide or national in scope) is unique, each was not predicted and demands a tailored response. However, there are three basic principles that remain the same no matter what the incident. It is not as simple as merely a prayer and a well-intentioned and heart-felt caring action; the response is not done until the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical life has found victory.
Why Pray - Care - Share? It is what Jesus did every time he faced a person in need. He first asked His Father for guidance, then He acted upon what He was told to DO, then He never failed to direct the recipient of His love to His Father alone
Lighting the Way in Disasters
In order to effectively pray/care/share within disaster settings, it is helpful to understand the five distinct phases of any disaster or personal emergency. There are specific victim needs during each phase and their ability to respond varies from phase to phase.
The first phase is the “Acute” phase. During the acute phase the disaster/emergency is still unfolding. It is wise to assist first responders, pray for them and support their efforts as much as possible.
The second phase is called the “Heroic” phase, which is what it sounds like, people are doing heroic things such as rescuing people. Often it is victims helping victims, neighbors helping neighbors.
The third phase is called the “Honeymoon” phase. During this phase people are responding from all over the country to come and help. It is a honeymoon phase because all of these people have come to help and it gives assurance to victims everything will be all right.
The fourth phase is referred to as the “Disillusionment” phase. The longer the recovery takes the more impatient victims become. They still don’t have power; they can’t get back in their homes; they are waiting for vouchers, etc. Tempers tend to be short, and normally courteous people can get kind of surly.
The last phase is generally referred to as the “Reconstruction/renewal” phase. After what can sometimes be a long disillusionment phase, things are starting to come together. Debris is cleared away; buildings are being rebuilt, routines resuming, and people are returning to a “new normal” life.
“Lighting the Way” helps you to apply the Prayer/Care/Share principles in everyday situations with family and friends and may also be used in a disaster context to share with victims in all five phases and over a long term “Reconstruction/renewal/recovery” process.
Who is searching for God? a common question asked by those facing crisis. People will either move closer to Him or further away. 1 Timothy 2:1-8 explains that we must first pray for people and plead for mercy upon them while giving thanks to God for their lives. We must pray for peace, quiet and godly lives and that all men will seek Him, be saved and understand the truth of the Gospel. “For there is only One God, and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people; He is the man Christ Jesus.”
Pray for compassion and understanding of those you encounter who are different than you. Pray for empathy, so that those who are victimized will understand that you are truly there for them during their time of need.
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your being with strength before going out into the field. Pray for courage, insight, boldness, and perseverance. Acts 1:8
Marr says: “Prayer is not me motivating God to save my family member or friend; it is me being motivated to do my part.”
I like to use the image of a radio when talking about prayer. Prayer tunes us into God. God’s signal is always present, but we aren’t always tuned into it, and may in fact, be tuned into something else entirely. To be prepared for emergencies and disasters we need to be tuned into God. Be spiritually prepared.
Pray for the victims. Often if you visit someone’s bedside in a hospital Christians will come and pray for them. Do not forget to pray also for those in the same room who you may not know.
Pray that they feel the presence of Christ in the darkness they are going through. Pray that God will guide them and give them strength to deal with the crisis at hand. Pray God will give them wisdom to make the right decisions in the aftermath.
The first step and continual step in our response is PRAYER.
Pray that God gives you the patience to listen to what a victim needs, and for the strength to support them.
Where is God in all of this? Why did God allow this to happen? These questions are often posed in the early phases of a disaster. As Christian care-givers, what people really need at this stage is for someone to truly listen without feeling a need to say something or try and “correct” what a victim is saying. It is important to let them vent. This is called cathartic ventilation. They may be angry at God, and that’s Ok. God has broad shoulders. In the aftermath of a disaster people are searching for help, and also searching for answers. It is our job to support them, and graciously listen to them. It is in this caring phase that spiritual transformation initially takes place. People do not care about what you know until they know how much you care for them. It is a defining moment that will either foster a grateful memory or more pain.
If in the early phase of the emergency/disaster, offer them water, show them where they can get a meal; a shower; take them to someone who can offer shelter. You must meet their physical needs following a disaster/emergency prior to anything else.
Carefully listen to their story and withhold judgment. Be attentive to their needs.
Where can God use me? Before you go to assist at the location of the disaster/emergency, pray that God can use you to be His light to the world for those you will encounter. All caring gestures are important no matter how humble the task. Because God does put people in our path in order that we might minister to them. 1Timothy 2:1-8
Carry a small notebook and gather names of people you have encountered throughout the day, put their name in a book so that these people can be prayed for at the end of each day or as a reminder of how you can help them specifically and where they are located. (It is important to keep names confidential and to dispose of the peoples’ names when you are done.) Specifically, pray that God use you as a beacon of light, love, and hope and that you recognize the people He has put in your path that you are called upon to minister to on that day.
If you see someone picking through the rubble of what used to be their home, help them in some way. Help them look for pictures and precious heirlooms. If they are sitting quietly on a curb with their head in their hands, simply sit with them…if appropriate give them a gentle pat on the back to let them know that you are with them and there for them.
In responding to disasters and emergencies, it is important to pray for courage, calm, and confidence. The people you encounter will be stressed in a variety of ways. They may be sad; they may be angry; they may be in the pit of despair. They may be despondent or in emotional turmoil. It is our job to provide a caring calm, ministry of presence, a lighthouse beacon of light to those being tossed about on stormy personal seas.
“God gives us courage beyond ourselves. Total heart abandonment to God is the key. When we exhibit the peace that passes all understanding the world sits up and takes notice”, says Mary Marr. God is the strength beyond our strength in any crisis that enables us to provide the calm that is needed by victims. Acts 1:8
If someone that you encounter asks who you are, why you are doing what you do simply tell them that God has prompted you to help. Keep it simple, and follow their lead.
Hearing the story of someone you encounter may bring something painful in your past to the surface, and it is okay to share from your own pain in order to help them share theirs. But the difference is, you have Jesus on whom to rest, and draw strength. Make your experience clear and concise.
I am a firm believer in having identifiers when at a disaster site because it is a sensitive way to share our faith and allows someone to approach us with their questions. Identifiers are items such as a shirt that identifies your faith organization name, a chaplain’s vest, or a cross. These identifiers indicate to people you are a person that they may talk about faith issues with openly. It also helps first responders to guide people they cannot help in these matters effectively.
Share your own testimony when asked from a first person perspective which can be very encouraging to people in crisis. It often helps them open up to share their journey.
If they have their doubts, do not correct them. Let them have their doubts and support them still in their personal struggle. How you act in being non-judgmental is a far more powerful witness than what you may say.
They may not respond right away, but many will come back and explain how you have helped them, how they want to help others, and how the only way to do that is Jesus.
Build a relationship with those you are serving and you will have ample opportunities to be the one with the answer when asked, “Where is God in this?”
When is Sharing Christ Appropriate?
Understanding biblical response is one of the key ways that CEN maximizes the capacity of Christians to respond. There is a time and a place for sharing your faith. While it is important to give an answer for the Hope of Christ within, it is also important to know how and when to do that best, sometimes with or without words. It is never appropriate for Christians to use disasters to proselytize (i.e. to "make converts"). Damage can be done. To be effective, Christians need to understand when sharing is appropriate and how to keep the roles and priorities straight.
Once the acute physical danger of an emergency passes and survivors begin to question, “Why me, God? Why did you let this happen? Where are you God?” the Ready Christian is prepared to give testimony of God’s grace and plan for each person’s life. Does this mean the Christian is ‘taking advantage’ of an emergency to ‘proselytize"? Not at all. Not any more than if the caregiver was an atheist, and when asked, said, "This is an accident for which there is no explanation. God did not do this to you because there is no God."
However, because Christians have a mandate to make disciples, they need training to give the right kind of support in emergencies while preserving their unique ability to share the Hope of Christ and pursue the Christian mission. The atheist will not be accused of trying to convert someone and be excluded from helping, even if the atheist is sharing his beliefs. The Christian must learn how to be a help in emergency operations, and know the right time and place to offer the hope and comfort a trained biblical response can provide.
After 9/11 something quite unexpected happened. The government sponsored grief counselors who ended up going home after two weeks for lack of work. In contrast, a counseling center sponsored by an inter-faith agency had a line snaking around the corner for two blocks. Although proselytizing or holding religious services is prohibited during government-sponsored emergency efforts, it is part of the training of Federal Emergency Managers to look to the church to calm people during a crisis. Following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, religious leaders were dispatched to reassure local ethnic groups that they were going to be looked after by FEMA.
So, where do Christians draw the line? What is appropriate? At what point do you go from giving aid to presenting a case for Christ and the need for eternal life? Can you even do that? When and how is faith- sharing appropriate? In which places and situations is overt evangelism or 'sharing your faith' inappropriate? From a legal standpoint, certain criteria distinguish legitimate evangelization from illicit proselytism:
- All humans have the right to have religious beliefs, and to change these beliefs, even repeatedly, if they so wish. (Freedom of Religion)
- They have the right to form religious organizations for the purpose of worship, as well as for promoting their cause. (Freedom of Association)
- They have the right to speak to others about their convictions, with the purpose of influencing the others. (Freedom of Speech)
By the same token, these very rights exercise a limiting influence on the freedoms of others. For instance, the right to have religious beliefs presumably includes the right not to be coerced into changing these beliefs by threats, discrimination, or similar inducements.
Hence a category of improper proselytizing can be discerned.
- It would not be proper to use coercion, threats, or the weight of authority of the educational system, access to health care or similar facilities in order to induce people to change their religion.
- It would be improper to try to impose one's beliefs on a 'captive audience,' where the listeners have no choice but to be present. This would presumably require restraint in the exercise of their right to free speech, by teachers in the classroom, army officers to their inferiors, prison officers in prison, medical staff in hospitals, so as to avoid impinging on the rights of others.
- It would not be proper to offer money, work, housing or other material inducements as a means of persuading people to adopt another religion.
Federal rules require that religious organizations separate their federally funded services from their religious services to avoid improper proselytizing. This is done in two ways:
- Different place - deliver emergency services in a place that is not used for religious purposes
- Different time - deliver emergency services at a different time than religious services A couple things you can always do:
- You can always do whatever you want as long as you are on private property.
- It is appropriate to invite people to a discussion about God or to religious services or events at another time and or place as long as they are not required to go.
It all comes down to being ready. We cannot control the time or place that someone will be open to listen, but we can control being personally prepared to answer and take advantage of every situation to share the Gospel.