As Hurricane Dorian nears the southeastern United States with destruction in its wake in the Bahamas, the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries team is offering information and advice to churches that want to help and to people who are bracing for the storm.
Dorian has caused least 20 deaths and unprecedented property damage since making landfall in the Bahamas Sunday, Sept. 2. The UCC has no congregations in that country, which has historic commonwealth ties to Great Britain, but will monitor relief efforts there through ecumenical partners, including the international ACT Alliance.
"UCC Disaster Ministries has been in communication through our international networks monitoring the aftermath, needs and response to Dorian in the Bahamas," said Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth. "We will continue to seek ways that we can fill gaps and establish appropriate partnerships to aid in the long-term recovery efforts. Additionally, Dorian remains a very dangerous storm that still has potential to cause significant damage along the east coast of the United States. We call on the church to be in prayer, to be prepared, to not forget the communities still recovering from disasters past and to give appropriately."
As with all disasters, the UCC response to this hurricane will focus not on initial emergency response but rather on preparedness and the long-term aftermath. "Long-term recovery is the most protracted response and the costliest," Wolgemuth said.
Churches and individuals wanting to help hurricane victims should be aware that "financial donations are most effective, efficient and beneficial to survivors," he said. They can be made online through such channels as One Great Hour of Sharing, the Emergency USA Fund and the International Emergency Relief Fund, all found at the UCC's Donate to Disaster Relief web page.
In addition, churches can:
- Pray for people affected by the storm and those still in harm's way. A prayer by the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations, appears at the end of this article.
- Volunteer to help families and communities recover. Information and opportunities appear here.
- Build relief kits using UCC Disaster Ministries Matching grants.
- Use this resource page to prepare themselves to respond should a disaster hit their own community.
As for Dorian's likely path in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, the UCC message matches warnings from government authorities, such as the National Hurricane Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We have been in contact with our Conference Disaster Coordinators in the states which remain within the potential impact areas," Wolgemuth said. "The message has been, 'Be prepared, take evacuation orders seriously and respond accordingly.'"
Thompson composed this prayer: "Holy God, you are an ever-present help in times of trouble. We put our hope in you on behalf of those whose lives have been affected by tragedy in the Bahamas. We pray their peace and comfort, asking for help for those who have suffered loss. We pray calm for those who now wait anxiously. Grant your peace, O God. Amen."