The congregational call to relief and development: Lessons from Hurricane Harvey And Maria

How would you respond if your church building was demolished? How would you pastor a traumatized and grieving congregation?


These questions became reality for Houston and Puerto Rican church leaders alike last year after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria devastated their communities. Together with multiple partners and key stakeholders, the Urban Strategies team responded to the disaster.


Natural disasters underscore that the church is the strongest first responder. However, there is still much work to be done. The goal is not merely to sustain survival but to help communities thrive in the wake of devastation.


Communities of faith have a biblical mandate not to only live out the Great Commission but also to bring transformational outcomes to communities through following the Great Commandment.


“Urban Strategies has challenged our churches to heal, restore and rebuild the brokenness of our cities,” said National Assemblies of God Hispanic Relations Director Dennis Rivera.


Urban Strategies implements a holistic model of service, incorporating mental and physical health services. This long-term development approach focuses on collaborating with grassroots organizations, local leaders and experts in the field to create sustainable solutions.


“As a human, as a Christian, you want to help, but you have to know how to be strategic to have impact,” said Cristina Diaz-Hernandez, a Puerto Rican native and program manager at Urban Strategies.


The hurricanes also illuminated the necessity for churches to engage in emergency preparedness. Churches in disaster zones need a response plan but so does the church at large. Establishing systems for organizing donation collection, distribution and mission work teams is crucial.


For more information about responding to natural disasters as a congregation, partnering with recovering communities and getting involved in relief and development work, contact us here. To learn about how we and our partners responded to the hurricanes, view the emergency disaster relief and development summaries here.

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