NC Conference Disaster Ministries faced the challenges of continuing Hurricane Matthew, Florence, and Dorian repairs and rebuilds for survivors during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Though the pandemic hampered volunteer efforts, work pressed on as disaster centers resorted to implementing COVID volunteer, staff, and client protocols to reduce COVID exposure and infection. In some cases, centers hired contractors to complete work normally completed by volunteers. In other cases, as the NC Conference Disaster Centers have closed, locally established or newly empowered organizations have sprung up to meet needs.
The COVID-19 Pandemic did offer congregations localized opportunities across the NC Conference. Churches have risen to meet the needs of abruptly home schooled students by offering wifi hotspots, computer access, and tutorial services. As unemployment became more prevalent, congregations provided food and meal deliveries while others provided help paying for utilities, rent, and other essential needs. COVID vaccination clinics welcomed church volunteers to help with registrations, traffic control, and monitoring patients. Neighbors fulfilled Jesus’ command by helping and comforting their neighbors.
To ready the Conference for future disaster response, the MERCI center is being prepared to become a central springboard for immediate and early disaster response. Disaster vehicles, equipment, and disaster kits and supplies are being staged there to enable nimble disaster response.
Knowing that disaster preparation will minimize damage and loss, the Disaster Response Committee encourages local churches to prepare their congregations and buildings for disasters by engaging in Connecting Neighbors and Early Response Team training.