At the very beginning of the Early Response Team Training you received the question "Why?"
Why us instead of other volunteer organizations or individual unaffiliated volunteers? What makes us different—rather I should say, what ought to make us different is that we represent Jesus.
When you go to the areas impacted by a natural disaster, such as last week, please remember that those in the emergency services and utility services are doing everything they possible can to assist their neighbors. Most of these people are getting by on 2-4 hours sleep each day, if that much. Please show them the courtesy they deserve when you arrive to assist the community.
Do NOT expect to have a neat little packet, like at Annual Conference, of all that needs to be done. Information is always developing and changing throughout each day. Remember that these events do not happen every week, so the learning curve for agencies is large.
Be patient when you arrive and with great kindness fill out any and all forms they require. Disaster Response moves at the speed of paperwork. And though it may seem to the ordinary person a waste of time and effort, it is time well spent for everyone. I wish it could be quicker, and know that everyone involved in Disaster Response is always looking for quicker ways to deploy volunteers as soon as they arrive. Until that process is found, be kind and patient. And remember that sometimes our tasks are delayed because of the homeowner's insurance company. If you do work before the insurance company gives their approval you jeopardize the homeowners ability to receive funds for repairs.
Also know that all jobs are important, even the simple tasks of sorting supplies, filing paperwork, answering the phone handing out water, or helping a family bury their beloved pet. Humility is key in being representatives of Jesus. This is especially important to remember as we approach Good Friday. No task is beneath the level of training for Early Response Teams. We are there to be servants for the survivors in a time when they really need to see Jesus actively present among them.
If you are impatient or rude, you reflect poorly on our Annual Conference, UMCOR, the United Methodist Church, the Body of Christ, and most of all, you obscure the image of Jesus. As you go to help others in times of disasters, first and foremost you go to represent Jesus by becoming His servants.
Feel free to contact me any time. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my cell phone number is 205.907.2657
Be patient. Be kind. Be humble. Be gracious. This is the way to be the presence of Jesus in times of disasters.
In His Grace,
North Alabama Conference Disaster Response Coordinator