USA (MNN) — The events of 9/11 actually redefined the
decade for the United States and Europe.
The mask of naiveté for American citizens cracked on that
fateful day, and we discovered that we were unknowingly engaged in a
In 2001, many ministries and mission groups were already
shifting the way things were done to a more efficient model. But when September
rolled around, everything moved into
The biggest difference for the overseas ministry models was that
expatriate Christian workers were training the indigenous church to be
self-sustaining. For stateside groups, it was streamlining a
response through an existing community member–in this case, the local church.
Bas Vanderzalm with Medical Teams International explains that, "We
immediately linked with churches that were in the area. Those churches opened
their doors on the day of the disaster. They provided water and meals; and for
months afterwards, those churches were centers of hope."
However, most of the local churches were unprepared for the
scope of their response. Instead of
re-inventing the wheel, Medical Teams International got behind them and shared
their expertise. "The churches did need help. They weren't necessarily
experienced in what to do, nor did they have the resources they needed to
respond. And that's where we partnered with them."
That effort laid the groundwork for more. Since
2001, there have been multiple major crises around the world, including
Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami, Haiti's earthquake, Japan's earthquake and
tsunami, the Arab Spring, and the East Africa famine. "Whenever a disaster happens, we receive support
from these churches in Manhattan with whom we worked ten years ago because they
know the need, and they know what we do."
More importantly, the lessons of sacrifice made a lasting
impression. "After 9/11, the churches
were full for a considerable period of time because people were looking for
spiritual answers to these questions. Whenever a disaster happens, these are
the significant questions that come up. And that provides churches a significant
opportunity because people are looking for meaning."
Even if the urgency of the questions has faded over time,
there are still some who sought and found truth in the wake of the events of
September 11, 2001. That's what really
counts, says Vanderzalm. "Our mission is to demonstrate the love of Christ
to people affected by disaster, conflict, and poverty around the world. The
best way we can do that is by supporting local churches who are on the ground. They
know who needs to help. They have been there all along, and they will be there long after we leave."
There's one last re-defining lesson everyone shared, Vanderzalm
notes. "None of us is immune to disaster. We may think we are, but we are
not. Secondly, we should focus on the
things that are really important in our lives. In those days, we realized that
some of the things that we were pursuing in our lives didn't have much
Medical Teams International is still responding to several
crises. You can help. Click here for details.