For our purposes, a “disaster” can be defined as a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community's or society's ability to cope using its own resources. A disaster may be the result of natural forces or human action.
The immediate challenge of a disaster is the physical survival of ourselves, our neighbors and our congregations. In its aftermath, disaster presents the challenge of recovery - physical, mental and spiritual - of our entire community. Recovery can take years, often only to achieve some sort of “new normal” for everyone affected.
Disaster is also an opportunity - a challenge for Christians to serve others with whatever resources we can muster. Therefore, we must be prepared to both survive and serve. Mission Presbytery spans a broad area of Texas that includes many potential vulnerabilities to disaster ranging from fires, violent storms, widespread flooding or industrial accidents to man-made disasters such as mass shootings or terror attacks. We will be working to provide more information on this site about how you as individuals and congregations may be better prepared for such eventualities.
The challenge -- and opportunity -- of disaster
Disaster Assistance Preparation
We are all susceptible to tornados. Is your church prepared to move your people to a safe place if a tornado warning occurs during worship or another church activity?
Contact Kathy Kerr, Babs Miller or Danita Nelson, PW/PDA Disaster Preparedness Trainers, to help prepare your church for all types of disasters. Please read this short article published on CNN to see how one church in East Texas survived the recent tornado and see if your church could have responded as well.
Other Disaster Preparedness Resources
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is the emergency and refugee program of the Presbyterian Church USA. Through its headquarters in Louisville, KY, and small standing teams of volunteers (“National Response Team” and “National Volunteers”), PDA supports presbyteries and local congregations in disaster assistance activities, with special emphasis on long-term recovery mental, emotional and spiritual care for survivors and caregivers.
GIVE - via One Great Hour of Sharing, or by direct donation. Note that direct donations may be designated for a specific disaster project account.
You may also make direct donations to Mission Presbytery in response to any disaster within the presbytery.
ACT - either by volunteering to work in a disaster area or, as a congregation in or near a disaster area, hosting volunteer work teams. Hosting can be done by an individual congregation or in partnership with other organizations.
PRAY - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages us to pray continually. Following a disaster, our best response is first to seek God's presence on behalf of those in need.
Current PDA Work Team Opportunities
Working as a member of a volunteer team in a disaster area is a win-win for those who serve and those who are served. Disaster survivors need more than just cleanup or construction work, they need the emotional support that the presence of a team can bring. And working in a disaster area always leaves a lasting impression on the volunteers as well.
To learn more about this vital work, see these short videos:
PDA minute for missions - Volunteers are Needed
God Can Use You - Volunteer Work Team
Whether you field a work team through PDA or work as volunteers in your own or a nearby community, these videos should be useful:
Hosting volunteer work teams is a wonderful mission opportunity that can also bond and energize a congregation. You can learn more here. In particular, please watch the video linked from that page.
Other Opportunities in Your Community
Should disaster strike your own community, you may find many opportunities to assist in response with your people or fcilities. You may wish to prepare in advance by local arrangements, interfaith affiliations, or by participating in efforts such as Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
Hurricane Harvey Updates
Groups wanting to go on-site to help in areas affected by Harvey should contact Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) at:
Donate Now - Mission Presbytery Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund:
Mental Health Resources for Hurricane Harvey
Disaster Distress Helpline: Overview
The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a program of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which provides crisis counseling and support for anyone in the U.S. experiencing distress or other behavioral health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Calls (1-800-985-5990) and texts (text “TalkWithUs” to 66746) are answered by a network of independently-operated crisis centers around the country, who provide psychological first aid, emotional support, crisis assessment and intervention, and referrals to local/state behavioral health services for follow-up care & support.
Local Lifeline-networked Crisis Contact Centers
While the Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24/7/365 to anyone in the U.S., as a sub-network of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline we work closely with Lifeline-networked crisis centers across the country, at the local/state level throughout all phases of natural and human-caused disasters.
There are currently five crisis centers in the Lifeline network serving counties throughout Texas, including the Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD (713-970-7000 / https://www.theharriscenter.org/) which serves Houston/region.
To learn more about Lifeline-networked crisis centers, including if specific points of contact may be needed at any time during the long-term recovery, contact me via the information below.
Additional DDH Resources
Bulk copies of DDH brochures, wallet cards and/or topical brochures on common wellness & mental health concerns of those who continue to experience distress during long-term recovery (general coping after a disaster, trouble sleeping, talking with kids, etc.) can still be sent to Hurricane Harvey LTR providers at no cost, for distribution in any recovery offices or other ongoing field-based operations; if you/contacts are interested in receiving additional copies, including in Spanish, contact Christian Burgess, DDH Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate (contact information for internal purposes only, not for distribution to the general public).
The SAMHSA DDH website has a page dedicated to coping during disaster Anniversaries & Trigger Events http://1.usa.gov/1G1Q2VG & other disaster-specific information & resource pages, as well as a section in Spanish @ http://1.usa.gov/1Gq1zfk, all of which can be added to online recovery resource guides that continue to be maintained, etc.
SAMHSA’s free Disaster Behavioral Health Response Mobile App contains behavioral health information and resources that providers can use in any setting where those impacted by disasters are receiving ongoing support and services: http://store.samhsa.gov/apps/disaster/
SAMHSA’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series offers a clearinghouse of additional resources & best practices for providing emotional support throughout the disaster cycle, available @ http://bit.ly/2xJ2doo
Strength After is a new resource from the DDH which offers a platform for sharing & reading stories of hope & strength during recovery across disaster types, from disaster survivors & responders, for disaster survivors & responders: http://strengthafterdisaster.org
Finally, please help us reach those who may still be experiencing distress during the Harvey long-term recovery by forwarding the following templates (which can be adapted as needed) to share on any Texas VOAD/member organization social media:
One year after #HurricaneHarvey, national @Distressline (call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746) 24/7 emotional support remains available for survivors & responders struggling with distress or other mental health concerns: You're not alone! http://1.usa.gov/1HkfRQj #Texas
The anniversary of a disaster can renew feelings of fear, anxiety & sadness in disaster survivors & responders: You're not alone! The national @Distressline (call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746) offers 24/7 confidential support http://1.usa.gov/1Hxm5NW #HurricaneHarvey
(Spanish) @Distressline (llame 1-800-985-5990 o envíe el mensaje de texto ‘Hablanos’ al 66746) ofrece consejeria en Español para los afectados por catástrofe. Más http://1.usa.gov/1Gq1zfk #HuracánHarvey.