September 10, 2008 Hurricane Ike is expected to make landfall in Texas late Friday or early Saturday, September 12 or 13, 2008, again testing the nation's emergency response. In preparation for possible evacuation, Christian Emergency Network (CEN), FEMA, and the Texas-based relief organization Somebody Cares America (SCA), are asking churches in Texas and the entire Southwest to volunteer to provide shelter and set up relief stations along anticipated evacuation corridors. Please go to www.ChristianEmergencyNetwork.org to register your church now for the Ike Activation. Churches with available restrooms, water and refreshments, facilities to help re-charge phones and operate computers, mechanics to help with evacuation roadside assistance like flat tires, and even light meals are being asked to register their capabilities. Registered churches will be contacted with additional information via email or phone by a CEN or SCA representative within 2448 hours prior to landfall.
Dr. John K. Cook, FEMA's Director of the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives told CEN's Founder/Chairman Mary Marr today, "It is essential that the public and private sectors all work together to encourage people to be ready now to evacuate if and when it becomes necessary. This includes efforts to help people evacuate and provide assistance along the way. Faith-based groups have the advantage of calling upon others in their circles from across the state and nation."
Marr adds, "The Church is so valuable to our nation, especially at times like this. We have an untapped capacity to respond to emergencies. We just need to be asked. Well, we are being asked, in a big way."
Some officials are concerned that hurricane fatigue or a false sense of security after the successful Gustav evacuation will inhibit response. "Please show your readiness to respond in prayer, to care, and to share the hope we have by answering this call and registering your church now," asks Marr.
Marr encourages interested churches to do three things. "First, make sure you are ready for Ike. Stay abreast of local and national sources for information in your area and check that you and those in your congregation have prepared a 72-hour survival kit. Second, go online and register as a Ready Church and tell us what you can do. Third, begin to pray for those who will be in harm's way."
Marr has been partnering with Christian relief organizations like Somebody Cares America for the last seven years to create a coordinated Christian response to disasters. For the hurricane Ike activation, CEN is providing the media capability to get out the message and register interested churches. Somebody Cares America is providing a call-in center and logistical support. "Together we are able to do more than just working on our own," says SCA Founder Dr. Doug Stringer.
By working together, CEN and SCA hope to register hundreds of churches enhancing FEMA's capacity to respond.
This isn't the first time that CEN has brought organizations together to give a unified response. During Katrina, CEN helped bring together NeedHim, The Salvation Army and Campus Crusade for Christ to distribute 4,000,000 Higher Ground booklets on how to find hope during disaster, and to provide key guidelines on sheltering and response to 85 denominations and para-church leaders.
This call to respond to Hurricane Ike is part of CEN's latest initiative, the Ready Church, aimed at expanding the nation's readiness and response capability by networking the 300,000+ Christian churches nationwide. Churches will develop their capacity locally to respond to emergencies of all kinds sudden death, loss of employment, broken families, and local disasters. At the same time, they will be assessed for their willingness and capability to respond to national emergencies like Hurricane Ike.
A Ready Church pilot launched August 7th, 2008 in Santa Rosa, California. There, church leaders from Santa Rosa and the nearby cities in Sonoma County are mobilizing for preparedness training, capacity and assessment, and for local and national activation. Pastor Dr. John Schmidt of the Santa Rosa Alliance Church and other area leaders are spearheading the effort.
To join the CEN Ike Hurricane Activation or to become a Ready Church go to www.ChristianEmergencyNetwork.org. You may read more about the Texas-based Christian relief organization Somebody Cares America at www.somebodycares.org.
Please contribute to the Christian relief organization of your choice. Ongoing relief efforts in 2008 are straining budgets and depleting resources. To help communicate and accomplish the Christian response to Hurricane Ike, donate to CEN at www.ChristianEmergencyNetwork.org.