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How Not to Bring Relief After a Natural Disaster

How Not to Bring Relief After a Natural Disaster

Dr. Jamie Aten, disaster readiness expert and founder of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, gives guidance for churches that want to help in the wake of natural calamities.

How did you originally get involved with trauma relief work?

Picture this:

We've just moved from Chicago area down to south Mississippi. Our cell phones have no signal. We live in the country, no TV signal yet. The cable guy is coming on Monday. We know a storm is coming, but it's supposed to hit on the other side of Louisiana. So we go to church on our first Sunday in Mississippi, and we know no one there. The pastor gets up that Sunday morning and says, "If you remember Camille, then you know what I'm about ready to say."

My wife turns to me and says, "Who's Camille?"

I joke and say, "Well, she must have been in the Old Testament."

And then he goes on to talk about Camille being one of the worst disasters to ever hit the US.

Then he talks about Hurricane Katrina, and how the storm has shifted and is actually aiming to come right over where we lived.

And it did.

One of the things that I saw from that firsthand experience was that the church was both uniquely ready and prepared to be able to respond to a disaster, but at the same time, not as prepared as they could have been if there had been more outside of them that was set up to help the local church respond to disasters. Getting to see that firsthand got me started doing research on the role of the local churches in responding to Hurricane Katrina. From there, throughout the US, and globally, I got to do research and help people. And then I received the opportunity to come to Wheaton College to start the Humanitarian Disaster Institute.

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November 12, 2013

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