One of the (many!) things I love about the United Church of Christ is how seriously we take the admonition of Christ that we should love one another. We express our faith by loving our neighbors as if they were our own kin. Whether those neighbors are literally next door or on the other side of the globe, when there are burdens, we respond to share those burdens. Our passion to reach out and help others marks and shapes our faith.
UCC Disaster Ministries is one way we work together to express that aspect of our faith. Through compassionate witness and service to neighbor, we express the love of Christ to the world, our many congregations working together to be One Church. We are a faith community who share burdens and joys, locally and world-wide.
It is considered a basic Truth within the disaster response community that “All Disasters are Local.” Flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana may be featured on the National News, but it is an event experienced by the residents. Flooding in Northeast Iowa may not even make the Des Moines news outlets, but it is just as important for the residents there as for those whose homes are flooded out in Louisiana. A flood, tornado, or other disaster may not make the national news, but it can still be a huge event locally.
Local congregations will often be the first groups to respond to local needs. We offer the use of our buildings as temporary shelters or feeding stations, our members are among the first to begin helping neighbors clean up and recover, and our pastors reach out to members and community alike to offer pastoral care and support as disaster survivors struggle to find meaning in the chaos. All that work can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and the financial burden on a congregation can be large.
Responding congregations are not alone. As congregations within the United Church of Christ, we are part of a larger community of faith; a family of believers who come together to help one another; who share burdens as well as joys. One of the ways we work together in the midst of disaster is through the UCC Disaster Ministries.
UCC Disaster Ministries can offer financial assistance to impacted areas and congregations through solidarity grants to congregations, through seed grants to help start Long Term Recovery groups, and other financial assistance. We also offer pastoral support to congregational leaders serving in disaster areas, and when the rebuilding phase begins, may even be able to assist in recruiting volunteer teams to help rebuild.
The Iowa Conference has a representative of UCC Disaster Ministries, a Conference Disaster Coordinator. Brice Hughes, Pastor at Zion UCC in Burlington, IA has recently been named to that post. Part of his task is to ensure that when local congregations are impacted by disasters, the larger church responds.
When disasters occur, pastors in affected areas are often overwhelmed with immediate needs, to the point that reaching out to Disaster Ministries becomes one more task on a list already too long. The goal of Disaster Ministries is to help, not add extra work. If the local pastor can find five minutes to contact the Conference CDC, we can begin a process that may ease local suffering as you continue to minister to your communities in the midst of disasters.
To contact the Conference Disaster Coordinator, call or text message Brice at 515-450-1321, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the United Church of Christ, we work together to share burdens and live out our faith through loving neighbors.