Who Should I Support When Disaster Strikes?

The last few weeks have been filled with moments of lament and exhaustion for myself, the congregation I serve, and the community in which I live. Hurricane Harvey went right over the top of our small town. This caused the Colorado River to rise to nearly 55 feet, flooding many homes and businesses. Our local paper recently reported that 1 out of 12 students in our school district are without a home.

Our congregation quickly responded to the need in La Grange. Since our local non-profit second chance store was flooded, we opened our doors and became the temporary donation center for the city. We then received a semi-truck full of supplies from Churches of Christ Disaster Relief. We created mobile relief units that went directly to the flood victims giving them the supplies that they needed. At the same time, we kept the doors to our building open so that we could provide people with food, water, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies, and more. We had no formal training in what to do in a disaster. We just did what we could.

I have learned a lot from this experience, and I am more confident than ever that when tragedy strikes and people are looking for somewhere to send money or donations to help people in need, they should send it to a local church. I recognize that the local church cannot do everything, but there are some excellent reasons why someone should consider a local church when looking to give. Here are a few.

Local churches can mobilize quickly and begin to help people before large non-profits and local government. This is because local churches already have facilities and parking near the disaster area and a network of volunteers who are ready to give and help. They also don’t have to deal with red tape, paperwork, or waiting on approval from higherups. A decision can be made quickly, and this is essential when people are in need.

Local churches are comprised of individuals who live in the affected community. They know the area. They know the very people who have lost everything. This means the person who is in shock because they have lost their home, car, and belongings doesn’t have to wait in line or fill out a form to get help. Instead, they are comforted by a neighbor who is ready and willing to get them whatever they need.

Local churches are permanent fixtures in the community. This means they aren’t going to pack up and leave after four or six weeks. When someone loses everything, the recovery process is a long one. Churches who are doing the work of God are going to be there every step of the way. They are going to help you find temporary housing, get you food and clothes, find volunteers to help with cleanup and rebuilding, and be there for any counseling or spiritual questions you may have.

Many people often worry about how much of their donation is going to the victims. Some non-profits have CEOs who are making large salaries, or they support works all over the world, and your donation may not go to the cause you hoped it would. The congregation I serve has received several donations from other churches and individuals. 100% of those funds go directly to flood victims. My salary as a minister and all the bills for our facility are paid through the weekly collection from our members. Everything that is given for flood relief goes into a separate account and is used only for helping flood victims. I cannot speak for every church, but I know many other churches who operate the same exact way.

If you are a Christian and you want to give to help people in a disaster, then you should support a local church because Christ is glorified. The purpose of the church is not to seek glory for itself or any of its members. We do not want people to feel indebted to us in any way. The assistance we offer is all an act of love for our neighbors just as God commanded us to do. We want the people we help to see the image of Christ in us, and we want them to know that God loves them.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.