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Responding to Crisis with Help and Hope

Volcanoes in Guatemala and Hawaii. Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Rising floodwaters in Sri Lanka. Disasters like these are reminders that the world is a broken place where terrible things happen, but we as the church can be a part of God’s redemptive work to bring help and hope to people in crisis.

In the mass chaos that follows a natural disaster, people are searching for any glimmer of hope they can find. FEMA and the Red Cross can provide physical and perhaps emotional help, but they can’t touch the spiritual needs that arise in crisis, and all too often these groups leave before rebuilding is complete. The church is uniquely positioned to offer the true hope of the gospel and the message that God can redeem awesome out of awful, beauty from ashes.

When we hear about a natural disaster, we want to help. But we aren’t sure where to plugin or how to contribute in ways that will make a lasting difference. That’s where Encompass’ Crisis Response Network comes in. They help connect churches and individuals who can come alongside people in crisis and meet the needs of the whole person. Through ongoing relationships with local churches around the world, they are uniquely positioned to quickly identify needs and find ways to meet them. And when you serve through the Crisis Response Network, you know that the work will be ongoing because the local church is there to stay.

Barb Wooler, Crisis Response Network Director, sees her role as mainly one of connecting local churches in affected areas with Charis Fellowship churches who can come alongside and help meet the needs of those who have been struck by disaster. “People in trouble are listening,” she says, “and God reaches them. The church can do things in a crisis that no one else can do.”

Barb has noted that recently there has been a shift in how the North American church responds to disasters. Ever since Hurricane Harvey, we have begun looking at crises as opportunities for gospel witness. There is a new energy to provide help and healing to those who have lost everything through a natural disaster. With the help of the Crisis Response Network, now they can.

One Charis Fellowship member described it this way: “In the past when crises would happen, I would want to help, but we were too small. Now we are a coalition, and we can send two people to join with five people from another church, and we can help.”

A Fellowship member from Canada went on a trip and came back inspired to add a new branch to his contracting company that would offer ongoing disaster relief. The new branch is aptly named Shifted Focus because of his personal experience. Through this new branch of his business, he now leads several construction teams who serve in crisis zones like Florida (Hurricane Irma), Houston (Hurricane Harvey), and Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria).

After serving on teams in Houston and Puerto Rico with the Crisis Response Network, Sandy Bell, a woman in her seventies, has found renewed focus in her retirement years, saying, “I now have a new calling from God: to serve people in crisis.”

The Crisis Response Network is like a bicycle hub, forming relationships with local churches around the world so that when a Charis Fellowship church wants to help with a crisis, they can connect with people on the ground who know what will truly help.

With that in mind, the Crisis Response Network also seeks to continually partner with the other Encompass networks. For instance, they recently partnered with the Transformation Works Network to help their Sri Lankan partner serve people affected by severe floods. Barb’s dream is that someday the continued partnership with other Encompass networks will result in new disciples and new church plants.

The projects coordinated by the Crisis Response Network vary widely, depending on the needs generated by the crisis and what other organizations are already doing. Recent projects include rebuilding projects in Houston, on-the-ground assistance in Florida, flood relief in Sri Lanka, and reviving the home of a single mother of three in Puerto Rico. In each project, teams address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through practical help combined with ongoing spiritual resources.

The Crisis Response Network is currently managed by Barb, but she hopes to find people who can help with communications and administrative tasks. She is also always looking to add to her network of individuals who are willing to offer their services, whether they are counselors, medical professionals, construction workers, or merely people who want to help in any way they can. If God lays on your heart a desire to serve people in crisis, Barb can help you find a team to serve with! Contact her via EncompassCrisisResponse.org.

Please pray for:

  1. Additional volunteers or staff in the area of communications and administration.
  2. Discernment to know which crises to engage with and how best to help.
  3. Relationships with partners who understand the potential of the church to help in a crisis in ways no one else can.