USA (MNN) — Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a Tropical
Storm on Sunday with diminished winds and rain…a far cry from the storm that
struck Puerto Rico days earlier.
Even as winds, rain, and surf pounded North Carolina and
Virginia, faith-based groups mobilized to meet the immediate needs of storm
The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee's Disaster
Response Services Team moved personnel and vehicles into staging
locations. Director Bill Adams warns
that they're expecting the whiplash effect of the storm in the days ahead. "Even though perhaps the water didn't
rise in Manhattan the way they were fearful, and some of the areas were not hit as bad, the flooding
inland–a lot of the rivers in New Jersey, I'm hearing it around Philadelphia,
and certainly North Carolina–has been affected by the storm surge."
Massive damages are expected to result from flooding because
the disaster struck densely-populated areas. As of Sunday afternoon, there were 14 dead, and more than six million
affected by the storm's march along the East
Adams says their teams were already primed to go by mid-week,
LAST week. "The first thing we do
is to start readying our Rapid Response Teams. Those are folks with tool
trailers we send in to help with the cleanup. Last week, we
were already getting those teams ready. We also have Advance Crews–they're kind of
like project managers to really give us guidance as to where the Rapid Response
Teams should be going." Advance
Crews left for the disaster region Sunday afternoon.
CRWRC wasn't the only faith-based group primed for fast
response. Mark Lewis with the Crisis
Response arm of the Evangelical Free Church of America's compassion ministry,
TouchGlobal, says some of their churches got involved immediately. "They cancelled services and
encouraged everyone to go out into the neighborhoods to help — you know,
friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors, and really being a witness
for the Gospel at a really relational level."
The Kinetic Analysis Group estimates that insured damage
from Irene will range between $2 billion and $3 billion, but total losses could be as high as $7 billion. The real trouble will come long-range, which
is the CRWRC's strength, says Adams. "Our
big role comes with long-term recovery. We have had Needs Assessment Teams down there that ging door-to-door to find the folks that are still hurting. They don't have insurance, so we send our Needs Assessment Teams in, probably
six to eight weeks after a disaster. Then, our construction teams will follow."
While CRWRC teams will be working with area churches and volunteer
teams, Adams admits that with the number of large-scale disasters to which their
teams are committed, the ministry is stretched pretty thin. "Between finances and volunteers, we've
had a great response. But the needs are going to be tremendous, and they're
going to continue for years to come."
The investment of time, materials and manpower opens doors
that may have been tightly closed to faith communities before. Adams explains,"We're the hands and the
feet of Christ. That's our purpose in this world." As part of their team briefings, there is a
constant restatement of that purpose. "We also remind them (volunteer
teams): 'Always be prepared to give an
answer,' because invariably people will ask you why you do what you do. That's the opportunity to share the