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Flourishing Under Pressure Series -- Flourishing in a Natural Disaster

How is the Church responding in compassion and proclaiming Christ when confronted with a natural disaster in a country opposed to Christianity?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told His disciples, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Jesus would work through His disciples to accomplish this task. However, He did not tell His disciples that this task would be easy. He explained, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). In verse 20 He continued, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” Jesus had earlier told His disciples, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9).

The Church today is experiencing challenging circumstances — persecution, ministering in a war-torn world and a world rocked by natural disasters. So how do we approach gospel witness when experiencing opposition to the gospel? How can we effectively present the gospel in these situations?

Beginning today and in the following days, a series of five “Flourishing” articles will post to AG News, including “Flourishing in a Natural Disaster,” “Flourishing During Persecution,” “Flourishing Despite War’s Destruction,” “Flourishing in the Midst of Conflict,” and “Flourishing — A Biblical Response to Natural Disaster, Persecution, and War.” These stories will reveal how the Church is proclaiming the transforming work of Christ in a world filled with conflict and disaster.

FLOURISHING IN A NATURAL DISASTER

There are two questions that arise when any natural disaster takes place: First, how do we handle the overwhelming loss? This includes destroyed houses, physical injury, death of family members and friends, or loss of livelihood. Second, what is the best way to assist with the large-scale trauma and mental health issues that can hold survivors (and first responders) in bondage for months or years? Compounding these questions is this: How can global workers and followers of Jesus respond when the disaster strikes in a religiously sensitive nation?

We asked these questions when a 6.8 earthquake struck late at night in the High Atlas Mountain villages of Morocco on Sept. 8, 2023. The answers were immediate. With wisdom from the Holy Spirit and love for our host nation, our global workers mobilized quickly and efficiently. Other believers throughout the nation quickly joined those living in Marrakech and Agadir.

Moroccans immediately stepped up to donate blood for those in need. Global workers and Moroccan nationals purchased food, water, blankets, and other essential supplies. An international church staff, and global workers in the community collaborated, using the church as a staging ground to package these items, along with emergency generators and other essential items.

These believers then developed a system for delivering these items to those who had lost homes and loved ones. Distribution was coordinated with those who lived in key areas of the Atlas Mountains, allowing direct access to the remote areas, as local village leaders knew and respected them. Approximately 750 boxes of food and 500 blankets were delivered in the first three days after the earthquake. Other AGWM personnel and a Live Dead launch team packed up multiple vehicles of supplies and convoyed them to two staging grounds— joining in the emergency distribution and ministry to the grieving.

When Convoy of Hope, Water Mission, and Samaritan’s Purse joined with these global workers and national believers, the community relationships they had already formed were essential in connecting with Moroccan people to provide additional aid in the way of clean water, latrines, tents, and even donkeys and sheep.

“In the immediacy of the crisis, we don’t have time to think deeply; we just plunge into the work and do what needs to be done,” said Dick Brogden. “As the earth beneath us stops shaking and the floods recede, the emotion rises. Joy is mixed with sorrow.”

In Morocco, government helicopters brought the most severely injured to Marrakech’s hospitals, where they received free medical care. However, after being discharged, patients found themselves without money to purchase vital medications needed for their recovery.

“One believing doctor, a friend of one of our personnel, personally contracted with a pharmacy to provide medications to these people for free. She and her family were selflessly willing to ‘pick up the tab,’” said an international church staff member. “Because of donations, we have been able to help in this unique area of need. However, the real ‘win’ comes with the relationship that has developed between the doctor and the patient. Doors are wide open for future follow-up!”

“Some people come in to give out water, take a picture, and leave,” said a global worker in Morocco. “We are here, we stay, and we live with the people. We give out water, sit with them, pray, and give hope. What people really want after the disaster is to find hope again.”

“These actions were done in the name of Jesus, and their compassionate and rapid intervention response has opened the door for ongoing gospel access where we had previously been restricted, particularly in remote mountain villages,” said Brogden.

Workers from the international church and Live Dead teams had divine opportunities to meet with hurting village people. “Some of our ladies did basic first aid as they sat, listened, wept and prayed with women who had suffered great loss,” said an international church staff member. “Some of the men, after delivering food supplies, went back to the villages where they had been with soccer balls for the young people.”

These acts of compassion opened the door to remote villages with Berber populations where our teams had not yet gained a presence. As winter approached, people constructed shelters as they waited for government resources to rebuild their homes.

In sync with meeting tangible physical needs, global workers organized trauma counseling. A faith-based counseling service present in-country brought in several trauma counselors. For two weeks this team provided care for first responders, their children, and ex-pats living in the area where the quake hit. Because of generous relief donations, the international church was able to partner with two trauma specialists who provided training for local community leaders on how to recognize and deal with crisis-related mental and emotional needs. This team held another training for global workers who were then able to pass on the tools they learned to national believers. Arrangements are being made for a specialist trauma counselor to be on site for six months to assist in meeting the needs of those suffering.

The church in Morocco is small, but her compassionate response to the earthquake survivors will, prayerfully, have a tremendous impact in seeing people brought out of spiritual darkness into the glorious light of Christ.

EGYPT/LIBYA

The bold Egyptian Church was not quiet as tragedy struck around them. As floods took thousands of lives in Libya, and displaced tens of thousands more, the Church in Egypt flooded the border with food, water, and medical supplies. The Church overcame the nearly impenetrable border and sent doctors from their churches to serve in struggling hospitals.

As war broke out in the Gaza Strip, the Church began to strategize how to best serve the hurting Palestinian people. They are exhausting their resources to meet the needs of those suffering inside Gaza and those displaced to Egypt.

The Church continues to reach out to those who are experiencing loss through natural disasters and war. These believers demonstrate Christ’s love and compassion though kind deeds and supply what is lacking in material needs. And they look for opportunities to tell these people about Jesus, the One who can meet their spiritual needs.


*Names changed for security throughout the series. This article original appeared in Worldview magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 2. Used with permission.