What Churches Need to Know About the New FEMA Disaster Aid Process

This article was originally published in Church Law & Tax February 27, 2018

A breakdown of the options churches now have access to for disaster protection and relief.

A breakdown of the options churches now have access to for disaster protection and relief.

In January, FEMA announced a shift in policy that would allow houses of worship access to federal funds to rebuild after disasters. The recently passed Bipartisan Budget Agreement assured funding for this new policy. After a string of hurricanes devastated communities across the United States last year, causing $306 billion in damage, churches damaged by such natural disasters can now access federal funding as they look to repair and rebuild.

Because access to these FEMA resources is new for most churches, we’re laying out what churches need to know in order to use this new benefit.

National Flood Insurance Program

The foundation of disaster aid is insurance. Most homeowner and commercial insurance policies exclude flood coverage, but houses of worship can purchase commercial policies through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if they are part of a participating community. This is not a new benefit for houses of worship, but it’s important that churches understand the importance of this first line of defense. Started in 1958, the NFIP is the largest federal insurance program, covering 5 million properties. It has 22,308 participating communities and has paid out over $9 billion in claims to date. These policies are available in both high- and low-risk areas, even if you’ve had prior flood damage. The NFIP website lists all participating communities, and the policies can be purchased through local insurance agents. It’s important to note that an NFIP policy has to be purchased at least 30 days before an event in order to be able to make a claim after.

Access to these funds does not require a presidential declaration of disaster—only two or more acres or properties that have experienced flood damage. Coverage limits depend on the policy, but they can go up to $250,000 toward building repair and $100,000 toward building contents.

SBA Disaster Loans

After disaster damage has occurred, churches now have the option to turn to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Assistance program for federal aid. This program is the primary form of federal assistance for privately owned property damage, providing loans to churches and faith-based non-profits. These funds are only available following a presidential declaration of disaster.

While 80 percent of these loans go to individuals for primary residence repairs, churches, non-profits, and religiously affiliated schools can apply for Business Physical Disaster Loans. These loans offer up to $2 million for real estate repairs, and can also be used to repair and replace furniture, fixtures, etc. The interest rate offered to nonprofits is fixed at 2.5 percent, and collateral is required for loans over $25,000. The SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral, but it will ask for whatever collateral is available.

Because of the policy change, SBA is accepting disaster loan applications for physical damage past the filing deadline from houses of worship for disasters declared from August 23, 2017 through January 1, 2018. Applications can be submitted online here.

Public Assistance Program

Houses of worship and private, faith-based nonprofits are now also eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Program if their facilities are damaged in a storm that receives a presidential declaration of disaster. This program provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged facilities of private, non-profit organizations.

Applying for this type of assistance requires submitting an application to the state through the new Grants Manager portal within 30 days of the presidential declaration of disaster. This application package includes a Request for Public Assistance form, evidence of federal tax-exempt status, pre-disaster evidence of incorporation/charter/bylaws, and a Data Universal Number Systems number established with the government, in addition to supporting documentation establishing ownership of the building, proof of use, and proof of insurance.

What’s essential to note, however, is that unless they are providing critical services (emergency, medical, utility, irrigation/water supply, custodial care, or educational), most non-profits and houses of worship will need to first go through the SBA Disaster Loan application process before they are eligible for the PA program. FEMA will not consider applications until the SBA decision is rendered.

If eligibility is granted, churches will need to submit a list of sites damaged, “before and after” pictures, and any information about historic structures. FEMA and the state will then coordinate a Recovery Scoping Meeting to determine reimbursable damages.

What to Do Now

Familiarizing yourself with your options now can help alleviate stress and confusion when you actually need those options. To make that process smother after disaster hits, churches can also prepare in other ways: taking and recording all inventory, storing all policy information in a safe place, and keeping copies of policy numbers and contact information in locations that are easy to find and access.

I reached out to Marcus Coleman, acting director of the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, for his take on how churches can best prepare now. He offered these four essential pieces of advice for building a culture of preparedness:

1. Get connected with your local first responders and emergency management agency. Local emergency managers can share information about potential risks for your area, including whether your church is in a flood zone. First responders can be helpful in helping you think through creating an emergency operations plan. You can also visit www.fema.gov/faith-resources to get started.

2. Document and insure your property. Not all insurance policies are the same. Coverage amounts, deductibles, and payment caps can vary significantly. Consult with your insurance professional to be sure your policy is right for you. We encourage everyone to document and insure your property. In this webinar recording, FEMA and the SBA discuss potential sources on financial assistance for non-profits and houses of worship, including an update on the recent FEMA policy change.

3. Get trained. Use free resources designed for faith leaders to prepare for natural and man-made emergencies—including active shooter incidents. Training includes “You Are The Help Until Help Arrives” and Community Emergency Response Team training.

4. Get organized. FEMA andDHS have developed a suite of resources to help your organization get organized for man-mad and natural disasters. Visit www.fema.gov/faith-resources to learn more.

For more on how churches can work together with FEMA, see our interview with former FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate.

I'm a Christian, Disaster Expert, Psychologist, Researcher, Father, and Friend, We Need Gun Action Now

This article was originally published in Sojourners on February 23, 2018. 

Picture above: Bob Ossler, chaplain with the Cape Coral volunteer fire department, places seventeen crosses for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on a fence a short distance from the school in Parkland, Fla. Image via Reuters/Jonathan Drake

Picture above: Bob Ossler, chaplain with the Cape Coral volunteer fire department, places seventeen crosses for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on a fence a short distance from the school in Parkland, Fla. Image via Reuters/Jonathan Drake

If the church is going to bear witness of Christ’s love in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., we must not just proclaim the good news but also demonstrate the hope to which we hold.

I have tried in the past to steer clear of controversial topics in my work and ministry. But gun violence is one issue on which my feelings have grown too strong to stay quiet.

This week, I joined other evangelical Christians who believe it is time for the church to take stand, to couple our thoughts and prayers for the victims and survivors of gun violence with action. I became a founding signer of the Petition for Prayers & Action for Gun Safety in America, which started as a vision of Rev. Dr. Rob Schenk and began percolating in the evangelical community after the devastating mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November. Signed by other evangelical leaders, including Lynne Hybels and Max Lucado, this petition upholds the power and importance of prayer in response to this crisis. It also acknowledges that as Christians, we are called to do what we can to help work toward a solution.

As a Christian, a husband and father, a friend, a disaster ministry expert, a researcher, and a psychologist — I believe we need to take action to stop gun violence in our country. Here’s why:

As a Christian: We have a biblical mandate to demonstrate love for our neighbor and to protect life. I have read too many obituaries of innocent people whose lives were cut short by gun violence. We owe it to the victims and survivors of mass shootings, and to each other, to do what we can to try and prevent this from happening again, and prioritizing that in our policies. As Christians, loving our neighbors well right now also means being willing to have difficult conversations with each other about gun issues. White evangelical Christians are less likely than the American public to support stricter gun laws in America. There are many reasons we may have different opinions about how best to protect lives and prevent mass shootings from happening, but we can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. As a starting point, this chart lays out some proposed policies, ranked by experts for their likelihood to reduce mass shootings, or reduce the number of people killed in them.

READ: I've Dedicated My Career to Disaster Ministry. Here Are 3 Ways Churches Can Be Prepared

As a husband and father: I was volunteering at my daughter's elementary school Valentine's Day party hundreds of miles away from the Parkland school shooting when my cell phone started flooding with text messages alerting me to the unfolding situation in Florida. My heart broke as I thought about the tears being shed in Parkland while I was surrounded by so much innocence and joy. I can’t pretend to understand what parents of this situation are going through. But I do know that as a father of three school-age daughters, I want to do everything I can to keep them safe. As the risk of school shootings continues to grow, I can’t sit back and do nothing while more and more children are killed in their schools.

As a friend: In July 2016, a friend and fellow researcher was attending a protest in downtown Dallas when the sound of gunshots created chaos in the crowd. He was able to run away and get to safety without being injured, but five lives were lost that night. Hearing his story of what he experienced that night drove home the reality that many people across our country have similarly lived through mass gun violence, or have waited for a loved one at a mass shooting scene to respond with an “I’m safe” text. That night, even though I knew he was safe, it took hours for me to shake the worry and anxiety I felt. It’s human nature to want to avoid thinking about bad things happening to us or our loved ones. Yet we must face the reality that right now, our loved ones are not immune to being affected by mass gun violence, and we must take action accordingly.

Over and over again, we see that events like these cause significant, and sometimes long-lasting, spiritual and emotional trauma.

As a disaster ministry expert: I have dedicated my career to helping churches and communities prepare for disasters, including mass shootings. I've also provided trauma support for mass shooting survivors, and after the shooting at an elementary school in Newton helped create tools and resources to help communities heal after mass shootings. Disaster ministry focuses on preparedness, and in the context of natural disasters that means knowing what to do and how to care when the worst happens. But when it comes to human-caused disasters like mass shooting, it’s also about doing what we can to prevent the worst from happening at all.

As a researcher: I collaborated on the first in-depth studies ever conducted on the psychology of religion and mass shootings, and since then have been part of similar studies with survivors of mass shootings all over the country. Over and over again, we see that these events often cause significant, and sometimes long-lasting, spiritual and emotional trauma. Other research has shown that survivors may experience other struggles as well, like increased rates of fear, stress, PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse, and “prolonged and complicated grief.” This impacts not only those who were present during the shooting, but the entire community. It also impacts survivors of past events, who may be triggered by reminders of their own trauma. This “ripple effect” has increasingly devastating implications for the long-term mental health of too many people.

As a psychologist: We need to be cautious how we as Christians discuss mental health and mass shootings. Research shows that mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1 percent of all yearly gun-related homicides, and that the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3 percent. When we over-focus our conversations around gun laws and mental illness, we perpetuate the myth that people who struggle with mental health issues are dangerous and violent. There is a long and complicated history of limiting access to guns for the mentally ill, and it’s a conversation that requires great nuance and care, not generalizations and stigmatization.

Christians, keep praying. But also join us in doing what we can to try to prevent future mass shootings from happening again to more people.

Helping Teenagers & Children Cope after the Florida Shooting

This article was originally published in Psychology Today February 22, 2018.

Source: Chad Madden/Unsplash

Source: Chad Madden/Unsplash

Last week, a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 teenagers dead and another 14 injured at the hands of another student. 

Those surviving these tragic events and their loved ones will forever be changed by this senseless act of violence. Scores more will be indirectly impacted even if they don't know anyone harmed or don’t live anywhere near the shooting as news travels through media and relationships into their homes and communities. At the Humanitarian Disaster Institute(link is external), we have conducted studies with mass shooting survivors all over the country and have found that there are many practical ways to come alongside victims and help them process, grieve, and heal well in the aftermath of tragedy.

Whether teenagers and children experience mass acts of violence personally, have seen it on television, or heard it discussed by peers or adults, they may become frightened, confused, and insecure. For this reason, it’s important for parents and caregivers to be informed, recognize the signs of reactions to stress, and learn how to best help teenagers and children cope with their emotional response.

Recognizing the Signs

For many teenagers and children, responses to mass violence are normal reactions to abnormal events. But some reactions may point to the need for further help. Signs to watch for include major changes in sleep patterns (including trouble falling asleep, frequent nightmares, or sleeping too much); shifts in temperament; and even jumpiness and increased anxiety or changes in play. These indicate that additional support is needed.

The risk of enduring psychological distress increases given the circumstances. Teenagers and children at a higher risk include those who experience direct exposure to mass trauma—including being evacuated to observing the injury or death of others, experiencing injury themselves or fearing for their lives. Those grieving the loss of family or friends, those still experiencing on-going stressors such as temporary living situations, or children losing touch with friends, teachers and social networks are also at a greater risk for experiencing long-term consequences.

Steps for Emotionally Reassuring Children

Provide as safe and calm an environment as possible. Remember, their reactions are often influenced by the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of the adults around them. Never treat your teenager or child like a peer, expecting them to process your emotions as well as their own. Instead, seek the wisecounsel of friends or professional counselors so that you can appropriately support the children in your care. Take steps to re-establish your daily routine for work, school, play, meals and rest. Involve teenagers and children by giving them specific tasks or chores to help them feel they are helping to restore family and community life and be sure to praise and recognize responsible behavior.

Do not push children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings about the incident. Be patient; it’s okay if it takes them some time to discuss what they are going through. If a younger child has difficulty expressing feelings, coloring, drawing a picture, telling a story, or playing with stuffed animals together can be great conversation starters. It’s also important to reinforce good memories by making time to do something positive together. While you wait for them to open up, let them know that you and others will be there to listen when they are ready to talk.

Monitor and limit their exposure to the media. News coverage related to a disaster may elicit fear and confusion and arouse anxiety in teenagers and children. This is particularly true for large-scale acts of violence has occurred. Especially for younger children, repeated images of an event may cause them to believe the event is recurring over and over. If teenagers and children are allowed to watch television or use the Internet, parents should be with them to encourage communication and provide explanations. Parents should also monitor their child’s social media, as it may be a source for further exposure to incorrect information and angry, fear-inducing comments.

Spend extra time with your teenagers and children. Hug them and be there for them, especially at bedtime. Your presence, even if you don’t know what to say, can help teenagers and children feel more safe and secure. Helping your teenager and child feel loved is one of the most powerful ways you can help. If you’ve tried to create a reassuring environment by following the steps above, but your teenager or child continues to exhibit stress that worsens over time or interferes with daily behavior, talk to their primary care physician, a mental health provider specializing in child trauma, or a trusted member of the clergy.

Dr. Jamie D. Aten is Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute(link is external) at Wheaton College where he is helping to launch a new MA in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership(link is external). He is the co-author of the Disaster Ministry Handbook and co-editor of Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma. Follow him on twitter @drjamieaten.

 

 

3 Disasters That Only Compound the Devastation

This article was originally published in Christianity Today on September 9, 2017.

"The biggest threat facing churches isn’t a disaster event—it’s how we think about disasters."

"The biggest threat facing churches isn’t a disaster event—it’s how we think about disasters."

Before I became a disaster psychologist, I was a youth pastor. My first job in ministry was at a small, rural church near the Indiana-Illinois state line. It didn’t take me long to realize I was in over my head. Nothing had prepared me for some of the serious struggles the youth in our community were facing. After a couple of years, I decided to go on to graduate school in psychology to better prepare for life’s disasters, like the trauma and grief I had seen in the lives of some of my students.

After I graduated, our family moved to South Mississippi for my first college teaching gig. Our first Sunday there, we attended a church service down the road from our house. I still vividly remember the pastor solemnly walking to the pulpit, and in a slow Southern drawl saying, “If you remember Camille, you’ll know what I’m about to say.”

The pastor went on to describe how the killer storm Hurricane Camille had devastated Mississippi in the late 1960s. He then warned about a rapidly approaching hurricane that some thought might be even worse: Hurricane Katrina.

I remembered all the post-9/11 public service ads that stressed how one common household item was crucial to everyone’s preparedness kit. As soon as I got home, I started rummaging through our drawers and unopened boxes to look for this lifesaving resource. Then I found it. The holy grail of preparedness, or so I thought: duct tape!

I was standing in the living room looking out our window, gripping that duct tape. I knew a threat was rapidly approaching, but all I could think was, Now what?

Once again, I was in over my head. Nothing had prepared me for the devastation that was about to rip through our community. Within weeks of Katrina’s landfall, I began reaching out to pastors to study how churches were responding. Twelve years later, with trips across the globe and too many disasters to list, I’m still studying disasters. During this time I’ve also weathered my own personal disaster of facing cancer, too.

Pastors I work with often ask me, “What’s the biggest disaster threat facing the church today?” Here’s what I’ve concluded: The biggest threat facing the church isn’t a disaster event—it’s how people in the church think about disasters. The way you and your church think about disasters will determine what actions you will take to prepare and care in a disaster-filled world.

I don’t say this to minimize the threat or impact of recent disasters. I’ve never seen a storm like Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes to be tracked, which poses immediate danger. Recently Hurricane Harvey struck the United States, becoming one of the costliest natural disasters in our country’s history. Countless other disasters like the wildfires in Montana and the flooding in South Asia are happening. These all pose real threats.

Yet, when I consider disasters within a broader context—within the grand scheme of past and possible events—it’s how we think about disasters that keeps me up at night. Too many pastors and congregations have bought into ideas about disasters that just aren’t true. Embracing these myths puts more people in harm’s way, risks diminishing our Christian witness, and threatens our ability to act as the hands and feet of Christ.

Myth 1: “The odds of a disaster impacting my church or community are slim.”

Disasters are actually happening more and more. You may have thought you were just imagining it, but you aren’t.

A couple of years after Hurricane Katrina, I spoke to a group of pastors in the Mississippi Delta about the importance of preparing for disasters. They assured me hurricanes wouldn’t travel so far north, so they weren’t sure why I was there. I had just started to respond when the noise of a passing train forced me to pause. After it passed, I asked the pastors what was on the train. They told me it regularly transported chemicals and oil from the coast to points further north. They had never noticed the risk on the rails in their own backyard. Sadly, a few years later a flood devastated their community.

Since the 1980s there has been a roughly 400-percent increase in natural disasters globally. Granted, not all of these events are Katrina-sized disasters, but a disaster is still a disaster. Unnatural disasters like terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and technical disaster (e.g., chemical spills) are also on the rise.

Despite these statistics, the fact is, we tend to be bad at estimating risk. So bad, in fact, that experts describe our response as the “ostrich effect.” Just as the name implies, research has shown that people tend to mistakingly ignore real potential threats.

On the other hand, some people overestimate specific threats, and live in fear of large-scale disasters like a tornado or terrorist attack, despite the fact that more people in the United States die annually from heat waves and snowstorms.

Disasters are happening in places that may not have been at risk traditionally. We can no longer rely on the heuristic that previous disasters are a good indicator of the sorts of disasters a community may face in the future. This rule of thumb isn’t as reliable as it once was. Changes in extreme weather pattens, sea-level rise, social tensions, global unrest, economic disparities, population growth, and shifts where people live are just a few reasons why.

But even the most unprepared churches need not give up hope when disaster hits. When a massive flood submerged the building his church was planning to remodel and launch as a new campus under five feet of water last summer in Baton Rouge, Healing Place Church campus pastor Ryan Frith described the experience as “shocking” and “surreal.” “Never would we have imagined a flood like this happening,” he said. “Nobody on our team had done disaster relief before or had even worked in a warehouse.” But after the water receded, they were able to turn their church campus into a distribution center, cooking meals and handing out fresh groceries. For a month and a half, they were able to reach thousands of people a day through all of the activity on the property. “We truly got to see God take all things and work them together for good. Our plan was to start having church, but God’s plan was for us to first be the church.”

Myth 2: “Disasters don’t discriminate.”

There is some truth to this. No matter who you are, or how much money you have, disasters can impact anyone. However, disasters do not affect all people equally. They disproportionally impact the socially and economically vulnerable.

Disasters are one of the biggest moral and biblical justice issues facing the church and society.

Disasters often magnify injustices by putting a spotlight on disparities already present in a community. I was involved with a program to help traumatized children after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. I had helped in Haiti years before. But it wasn’t until after the disaster that I learned of a far less visible disaster—Restavek—a Haitian cultural form of modern-day child slavery. The earthquake made this unthinkable practice even more prevalent. The earthquake had left many children and youth orphaned, and others with families that were no longer able to care for them. Human traffickers rushed to exploit the situation.

The poor, medically fragile, very old, young, and minorities suffer more than others. For example, some immigrants and refugees may live in fear of deportation, and as a result, might not ask for the help they need to rebound. Elderly people in high crime areas live in fear of being harmed and may not open their door to people they don’t know, even if those people are trying to help them survive a heat wave. People living in poverty may not have the resources to evacuate and get to safety when that means paying for extra gas and a hotel.

People become vulnerable for a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from age to job status. The most vulnerable and underserved also tend to live in less prepared areas and lack the resources to rebuild what disasters destroy. Thus, it normally takes them longer to recover than people with more resources and social connections. According to the Conservation of Resources stress model, disasters cause “spirals of loss.” It takes more resources, time, money, energy, and social support to recover, and for the most vulnerable, this is a debt from which they may never be free. However, our team’s most recent study found even when disasters lead to loss of basic survival resources (e.g., food), drawing on spiritual resources helps protect survivors’ psychological resources (e.g., hope, optimism).

When a low-income apartment building close to Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, Illinois, burned down on a Sunday morning six years ago, pastor of community life Chris McElwee was able to pivot an existing ministry in the complex and mobilize the church immediately. As the fire was being put out, they started helping the residents deal with immediate and future needs. “Our church already had a presence in the community through an afterschool program we started, and through the case management and ESL programs we provided to this complex. I think the key to us doing so well in this crisis was the relationships we had with the stake holders before the crisis hit. We had already established trust with the community. Relationships are the key. Knowing everyone ahead of time sped up the way we could respond.”

And this experience created future ministry opportunities, as well. “We continue to serve the community even though the fire is a distant memory,” McElwee says. “Responding well certainly deepened our relationships and let the community know we are a credible resource.”

If the church is to pursue disaster justice we must do better at living out the teachings of . We need to do more than just respond to disasters; we must also tackle the underlying injustices that put the vulnerable at greater risk.

Myth 3: “There’s not enough time—or this isn’t the right time—for my church to start thinking about disaster ministry.”

There’s actually no better time than this very moment to start thinking about disaster ministry. Once a disaster strikes, it’s much more difficult to plan a response. Even if you are staring down the crosshairs of Hurricane Irma or recently weathered Hurricane Harvey, I want to encourage you to take action now.

In a recent Humanitarian Disaster Institute study, our team found most pastors and churches weren’t ready when Hurricane Katrina struck, but that they still made a significant positive impact in helping their congregations and communities recover. We also found that when time is running out, churches can still play a vital role in helping their congregations and communities prepare, like utilizing crisis communication strategies, echoing evacuation messaging, and taking steps to minimize risk. Maybe your church has been caught off guard by recent disasters. Rather than focus on what wasn’t done, prayerfully attend to what can still be done, no matter where you are in the disaster life cycle (i.e., preparedness, immediate response, long-term recovery). Your church is actually more prepared for disaster ministry than you may realize.

Don’t think of disaster ministry as an “extra.” It’s a part of the church’s DNA.

A great way to begin, even if you are reading these amidst being evacuated from your community, is to start by thinking of ways to pivot the ministries that God has already blessed in your church. If you have a strong children’s ministry, begin there. Does your church already deliver meals to the elderly? Then that’s where your church should start.

If a disaster strikes in your community, people are going to come to youand your church for help, even if it’s leveled. There are several reasons people you may have never met before are going to seek out your church. Disasters cause people to ask a lot of big questions about God. The church is the place where survivors can find true hope, meaning, and long-term spiritual care.

There may also be people in your church who feel called to building your church’s disaster ministry into something bigger, given the green light and some space. Sharon Davis, executive director of Oakdale Community Development Corporation (OCDC) at Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, attended our Disaster Ministry Conference and immediately went to her pastor about starting a disaster ministry. He gave her the go-ahead and helped her assemble a team that immediately got to work figuring out the specific risks in their community and how their church was equipped to speak into them. They found that the church’s large population of dementia patients from nearby retirement communities had very unique health and safety risks that they needed to be better trained on and prepared for. Now Oakdale has even stronger relationships with this community, having demonstrated concern for their needs and a willingness to help in a tangible way.

By building relationships and ministries that already exsist in your church, whether you realize it or not, you're building disaster resilience.

Conclusion

Though disasters may reveal inconsistencies in our thoughts and injustices in the communities we call home, disaster ministry reveals God’s love, mercy, and grace. God has called his people to care for those in need, and where there are disasters, there is an immediate and pressing need. His commandment to bring good news and healing to those suffer is clear. As Christians we are created in the image of a loving, merciful, and gracious God, whose Son taught us to open our hearts and to use our talents in service of the kingdom. If we start thinking about disasters differently, it just might help you and your church to more effectively reduce harm during a disaster, save lives, and extend your ministry to those who need help the most.

Dr. Jamie D. Aten is a disaster psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College in Illinois. His latest books include the Disaster Ministry Handbook and Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma. In 2016 he received the FEMA Community Preparedness Champion award at the White House. You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @drjamieaten or jamieaten.com.