Christian Emergency Network Prepared to Help Hurricane Victims

Hurricane Katrina made first landfall at about 6 a.m. CDT, just east of New Orleans. Since it made landfall, it has died down to a category 1 storm, but the damage is expected to be one of the highest in terms of human lives lost.

"This is our tsunami," Mayor A. J. Holloway of Biloxi, Miss., told The Biloxi Sun Herald.

Teresa Kavanagh, 35, of Biloxi, shook her head is disbelief as she took photographs of the damage in her hometown.

"Total devastation. Apartment complexes are wiped clean. We're going to rebuild, but it's going to take long time. Houses that withstood Camille are nothing but slab now," she said. In 1969, Hurricane Camille killed 256 people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Christian relief organizers believe they are uniquely positioned to help victims, physically as well as spiritually.

"I don't believe it is only from a physical perspective, but economically it is going to be huge, and spiritually I'm praying that this is going to bring non-Christians into a right relationship with Christ," said Mary Marr, founder and chairman of the Christian Emergency Network.

For Christians, it represents a call to awaken and share the Gospel.

"For Christians, this is an hour for them to obey the Lord's commandments, for praying and sharing their faith in very tangible ways," said Marr. "It's not a time for them to remain silent."

The Christian Emergency Network represents over 5,000 Christian organizations, including Salvation Army, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Zondervan Publishing. It began one month after 9/11.

According to the network, Christians are uniquely positioned to respond in disaster situations.

"They're used to volunteering and most people in our secular communities are not. Two, they have a hopeful message, instead of just meeting the physical needs," said Marr. "Many of them have been desperate themselves or else they wouldn’t have come through that journey of knowing that they need God."

The Salvation Army has set up 34 mobile kitchens that feed 1,500 people each and two larger kitchens that feed 20,000 people each. They were mobilized as early as Saturday.

Working with local churches, Samaritan’s Purse is dispatching its Disaster Relief Units and mobilizing hundreds of volunteer workers to help repair homes. Two tractor-trailers loaded with emergency supplies and equipment are ready to roll into devastated communities as soon as the storm passes and it is safe to work. Crews will remove fallen trees from houses, cover damaged roofs with weatherproof plastic, pump flooded houses dry, and operate backup generators.

Convoy of Hope and Operation Blessing have also deployed trucks to the area. Though many cannot gain access to the affected areas, they are readied to do so.

The Christian Broadcasting Network is also on ground covering the disaster. They have streamed three live TV-feeds to Christian media affiliates to ensure active and speedy response from donors and volunteers.

In previous disasters, Christians wanted to help but did not have a Christian outlet, said Marr.

"There were so many Christian dollars that were going to secular organizations, and the Christian media was just doing broadcasting as usual," said Marr.

She explained that the Christian broadcasting world was pre-programmed for the most part, and they did not have a response mechanism to immediate news.

"A lot of their stuff was pre-programmed and they didn't know what to do. The Christian worldview on news was really behind, and they still are today."

However, it is critical that information circulates quickly so that Christians can help in ways that are the most practical.

Otherwise, "Some efforts could be unnecessarily duplicated, or folks could actually hinder the work of emergency workers if they don’t respond appropriately,” said Marr.

She implores Christians to pray that evacuation will take place swiftly and efficiently; a supernatural calmness will counteract panic; that people who stay in shelters will be protected from harm and have their needs met; that first responders will have all the necessary resources that they need to do their jobs; that through this crisis, people will turn to the Lord. She suggested setting up a prayer booth or having a prayer service.

She continued, “The most important steps Christians can take at this time is to share the hope found only in Christ through a message of prayer-care-share for those impacted by the storm, and those providing relief.”

To donate to the 5,000 organizations, or to learn more, visit www.centoday.com.