The Role of the Church During a Disaster

By Leigh Anne Coble
Mayra Zúñiga, a public accountant, came to Shalom Church here in Vara Blanca on June 19th to present a case study on the role of the church in the situation of a disaster like the Cinchona earthquake of 2009.  She and six others drew up a detailed 75-page proposal with research, opinions, sections from El Nación newspaper, and a proposal plan for how the church ought to play an important role in the situation of a disaster.  The document focuses on the regions of Vara Blanca and San Rafael de Vara Blanca, touching on the monetary, economic, and personal losses and the lack of support from the government.  The question in the community for those who are only too familiar with the still-destroyed road or for those still living in temporary housing is: “What has the government been doing for the last two years?”  But the case study asks, “What has the church been doing for the last two years?”  Looking to the example of Jesus, the case study explains how the church has the responsibility of serving actively, particularly to those in great need. 

She discussed how the church not only has the responsibility to reach out and offer relief, but to prepare an official plan of response.  Part of this response, she believes, should be a joint effort from all churches in surrounding areas, no matter the denomination.  The case study talks about the need for resources to be able to effectively assist a community’s needs when a disaster strikes.  It also details four specific needs for the community of Vara Blanca and San Rafael: health, infrastructure (development of houses), road, and employment.  One of the questions that is raised later in response to these needs is this: “What impedes the people from knowing the details of the resources, spending control, and the rendition of bills and should the church take a more active stand on this topic?”  One person claims that Christians ought to “serve God as much in the public sphere as in the community of faith.”  The case study raises another question, whether the “core” of the church should be responsible in taking a stand in a political topic because they are a part of the community.  But according to their poll in the area affected by the earthquake, the pastors responded that 81.25% of members from their church are not active in social organizations in the community and 93.75% are not aware of community problems.  However, 62.5% are connected with public organizations with recuperation plans in the case of a disaster and 68.75% believe that they should be involved in the control and the rendition of bills from recuperation plans before a disaster. 

The bill mentions Tomás Dozier and the active efforts of ADE as its staff works with the community and a local church on developing education and the community.  Now, the church must decide if it is their duty to become more directly involved in the community.


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