Responding to Natural Disasters by Q Ideas

The Associated Press said of 2010, “This was the year the Earth struck back.”

Last year was the deadliest in more than a generation with earthquakes, landslides, floods and blizzards claiming more than a quarter million lives worldwide. And there doesn’t seem to be any rest for the weary in 2011. In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, we’ve been shocked by volcanic eruptions in Iceland, thunder storms and tornadoes of historic proportion in the United States and a devastating tsunami that ravaged Japan.

It is not uncommon upon hearing reports of another flood or earthquake for someone to remark, “I don’t remember this many natural disasters when I was a kid.” Indeed, they are correct. In the last 100 years, there has been a precipitous increase in reported natural disasters, especially since 1960.

As Christians living in an eschatological age, our interpretation of and response to these events are critical. In attempt to “read the signs of the times” (Mt. 16; Mk. 13), some have made date-specific apocalyptic forecasts and have been both disappointed and embarrassed. Others have chosen a different route, focusing less on the meaning of these events and more on what a Christian response should be. They ask: how can we best participate in the long-term recovery of devastated areas?

Roger Sandberg, Vice President of Medair International, has as much credibility on this issue as anyone. His organization has been providing emergency relief and rehabilitation in post-disaster zones for years, and Roger himself has worked in countries from Sudan to Haiti. He has much to say about how the Church can sustainably contribute to these efforts, and that’s why we invited him to speak at our annual Q gathering:

In your opinion, what should the Church’s response to natural disasters be? Is sending a check for relief enough or should we also be involved in rehabilitation and development?

Editor’s Note: The artwork above is an illustration by Jason Holley.