Most people are caught off-guard when disaster strikes, completely unprepared for the devastating effects of natural phenomena such as storms, floods and earthquakes, or manmade catastrophes such as the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many want to help in tangible ways but don’t always know the right thing to do. And while the desire to help is admirable, if misdirected it can prove dangerous, as when well-meaning individuals impulsively go to a disaster site and end up becoming victims themselves.
Robby Booth, director of Foursquare Chaplains International (FCI), would like to change all of that. Robby and the FCI team have a plan to equip 800 Foursquare pastors and leaders to be FEMA-approved first responders, representing the Lord in the midst of tragedy and with the full approval of national and local government agencies. As many as 50 additional Foursquare leaders would become certified trainers, who could then extend this disaster relief training deeper into their churches and communities.
The training, typically costing $200, will be offered for Foursquare leaders at a scholarship rate of only $50 per person. Training sessions will be held in at least five different locations around the country beginning in September 2010 and continuing through spring 2011.
“It’s not just the natural disasters that catch us off-guard,” Robby told foursquare.org. “The number of suicides and other significant personal tragedies are increasing too.”
And though it may be hard to imagine, Robby notes that another growing concern is current terrorism chatter revealing threats against U.S. churches. He says training pastors to be first responders could be life-saving and life-giving, especially in the face of these End Times threats.
After going through the training, each individual will know how to minister to people who have been victims of a crime, as well as with those suffering from grief or personal loss.
“This training offers huge benefits to our churches,” Robby asserts. “It would be a tremendous asset for our pastors to have trained staff and lay leaders in their churches who could visit people suffering from one of these situations.”
The combination of Holy Spirit-filled Christians who have been fully trained as first responders will be significant in the life of The Foursquare Church. When natural disasters do strike, leaders who are trained and certified by this program are given access to the people who need ministry the most.
Robby remembers a few years ago, when one of the frequent firestorms ravaged a large area in Southern California. A group of Christians wanted to volunteer but were turned away because they had no formal preparation. Officials were concerned these well-meaning people would either be in the way of rescue efforts or perhaps might become victims of the fire themselves.
Robby says he talked with a fire commander who had to enforce the decision to turn away these people. The commander, who is a Christian, said he was very disappointed, because the only group that was properly prepared to volunteer during that particular fire was from the Church of Scientology.
Preparing to be a first responder “is like Noah building the ark when he had never seen a flood,” Robby says. “He may not have known what a flood looked like, but he knew the Lord would redeem his family.” Noah prepared in advance so he would be ready.
Robby also thinks there is a parallel between being a first responder and the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. He believes Christians need to be the ones to take the lead in times of human tragedy.
“This is the church’s opportunity,” Robby concludes. “We can’t ignore these victims; we must be prepared.”
If you are interested in participating in an upcoming disaster relief training event, download this PDF, which includes event training dates and a registration form. You can also download a PDF with FAQs.
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles