Relief and Rehabilitation

Jacob Eckeberger
August 31st, 2017

When disaster strikes, we feel so many emotions, and we begin to ask how we should respond.  As both individuals and as an organization, YouthWorks staff have asked similar questions over the 23+ years of doing ministry. We desire to serve communities in a way that is not only helpful but in a way that the community desires. We’ve learned that often our actual response to a disaster or ongoing needs in a community need to be different than our initial, natural inclinations or what we perceive to be the right response right after disaster or tragedy happens.

Our philosophy is similar to that of the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s National Director, Brock Long. He related that it was FEMA’s role to support and build up local agencies as they provide the first wave of direct response to those individuals affected. Our ministry philosophy is tied to having local leaders – civic, church, and other community leaders – actually lead and direct us in the way we can best serve alongside and support their communities, listening well and letting them lead us as we seek to serve.

As we look towards our response to disasters such as this, we’re reminded that response to disaster happens in two waves: relief and rehabilitation.

Simply put, relief is our short-term view of the crisis, while rehabilitation is our long-term approach. Relief is our first method of response; it’s the immediate provision for peoples’ basic needs – food, water, shelter, clothing. This is the ‘band-aid’ that stops the bleeding. This looks like organizations, such as the Red Cross, who come in immediately during and after the storm to take care of the immediate needs of people and communities.

Your instinct right now is likely to act quickly and provide relief for the situation at hand. It’s natural to want to do something – and that’s good! But before you pack your van and drive down to the Gulf, pause to consider how you can best be of assistance. Financial gifts and gifts of time are both appropriate, but relief is best coordinated by local leaders who are acutely aware of the needs of their community. In some cases, financial gifts may overwhelm organizations as they coordinate small-scale responses; other organizations may need capital to coordinate larger campaigns. Some may need manpower to prepare meals and provide shelter for the displaced, while more hands could compromise another’s ability to respond appropriately. Regardless, before you jump into action, remember that it “is not good to have zeal without knowledge” (Proverbs 19:2) as we respond immediately to the crisis.

Our second wave of response is rehabilitation. As important as the immediate relief from Hurricane Harvey is, natural disasters require a long-term approach as well. YouthWorks’ experience in communities on the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Katrina, and our ministry on the Jersey Shore following Hurricane Sandy, extended years beyond their respective crisis. And the same will be true for non-profits and churches local to the affected areas – they are in only the beginning stages of discerning what their role is in responding as they take a long-term approach. South and Southeast Texas has years of rehabilitation ahead to restore portions of the affected areas back to their pre-crisis condition, and the process of getting there requires much more complex solutions help than providing food, water, and shelter (even though they, too, are necessary).

Keep in mind that aid tends to slow down after a few months even if the effects are still present. This is the start of the relief and evacuation process; many churches and nonprofits are still figuring out their role. The school system in places where evacuees are being sent (including cities like Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and others) will be impacted greatly with an influx of students who cannot return to the school they were planning on attending. It’s these places of refuge that often see less support during the weeks and months following the disaster event.

Ways to Respond


Thinking through some of the best practices we know from asset-based community development, prayerfully consider what your individual response and how you levy your influence to help others respond as well. What is God leading you to do? Also continue to pray for those in immediate danger to find safety and for shelters and for organizations to unite together to serve all of South and Southeast Texas and Louisiana survivors.

Consider ways you can give.

There are many organizations that need financial donations to help in the immediate and long-term response to Harvey.

  •  Donations
    • Trusted World receives clothing and food donations that are quality checked, sorted and inventories. These donations will be sent to those individuals and families who are in need. One of YouthWorks partners in Dallas highly recommends this organization for donations specifically.

One quick warning: As you’re considering places to give or donate to, it’s always helpful to check and know about the integrity of the organizations you’re donating to. You can use Charity Navigator to get a better glimpse before you donate.

Consider ways you can serve.

Whether you’re within driving distance of the affected areas or not, there are ways you can serve those affected.

If you’re local to Texas or within driving distance, consider ways you can respond not only to the disaster and flood areas but also to the cities like Austin and Dallas that are taking evacuees from the affected areas. Here are some specific ways to serve:

  • Local churches that are a part of your denomination can be great to partner with in cities in the affected areas as well as in those cities supporting the affected areas, like Dallas, Waco, Austin, and San Antonio (and others). They often understand the needs of their congregants and other needs in the community.
  • Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas. Their congregation is working to prepare 500 meals a day to give to one of the evacuation centers that is at capacity. Volunteers can come help prepare and separate meals. Volunteers can reach out to Pastor Chris Simmons at csimmons@cornerstone.org or 214-676-7315. Their address is 1918 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Dallas, TX 75215
  • Volunteers can sign up for trips to the affected area through organizations like Samaritan’s PurseCoastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

If you’re not local to Texas or within driving distance, consider ways you can serve at home that can be a blessing from a distance.

  • Consider giving blood. Many hospitals are reporting blood shortages in the wake of the storm. Even if you’re outside of Texas, you can still donate to organizations like the Red Cross.
  • Consider looking at the lists of needs from organizations in the affected area and doing drives for those items via your local church or work place.

The church community has a huge opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus by remembering those affected by the storm and continuing to serve alongside the community. Our continued willingness to ask “how can we help?” after the immediate disaster is over will go a long way in the community’s restoration.

This post was written by a team of incredible YouthWorks staff:

  • Drew Powell – Site Development Director
  • Shannon Riffel – Site Development Associate
  • Trevor Bryant – Site Development Associate

YouthWorks exists to connect teenagers to God, each other, and communities through life-changing, Christ-centered mission trips. We celebrate that more than 500,000 students and hundreds of communities have been impacted by YouthWorks mission trips over the last 20-plus years. Learn more at youthworks.com.

This post was originally published by youthworks.com.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.