In disaster aftermath, God’s stories don’t stop

I’m writing this on an airplane after spending the past two days in Covington, Louisiana, helping to train ReachGlobal’s Crisis Response staff to be reporters. Of all mission work, crisis response offers some of the best opportunity for bragging on God: telling people what he’s up to and how they can get in on it. It was fun to work with a group of compassionate people who get that idea.

Hurricane Sandy Relief: Staten Island, N.Y. from EFCA ReachGlobal on Vimeo.

In the first few days after a flood, a tornado, a hurricane or other natural disaster have turned people’s lives upside down, the big media descend. Stories of tragic death and miraculous survival, of gut-wrenching loss and relentless hope, capture our attention. As those stories are delivered non-stop through TV networks, newspapers and online outlets, an outpouring of public support happens. Celebrities do benefit concerts. People feel godly compassion and many even act on it.

And then, the next big story arises and the big media move on. The needs in the disaster-stricken community haven’t lessened, but they become long-term. They don’t hold the nation’s attention any more.

Crisis response workers like ReachGlobal’s specialize in staying for the long haul (almost nine years now in New Orleans and southern Louisiana). They develop partnerships with local churches, organize relief teams and help people, house by house and block by block, rebuild their lives.

Every one of those people has a story worth telling. But the stories usually aren’t being told beyond the sphere of whatever local church that’s sent a team that week. After a few weeks or months, the relief effort begins to gasp for air.

But what if those stories were being told? What if crisis response staffers were trained to spot them, take a few notes and even shoot photos or video on their phones? If those otherwise-untold stories kept being reported on a regular basis, what kind of impact could they have?

We think it would result in a steady stream of prayer, giving, sending and serving. We think a lot of those stories would get shared, and shared again. And people would see real, right-now examples of God at work. All because mission workers realized that reporting God’s stories is a crucial part of their ministry work, and their agencies decided to equip them to do it well. All because they started taking Psalm 96:3 to heart: “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.”

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