Religion Unplugged

‘Faith-based FEMA’: Relief organizations mobilize to help after Hurricane Ian

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-in” features analysis, fact checking and top headlines from the world of faith. Subscribe now to get this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. Got feedback or ideas? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at

Over the years, I’ve covered the faith-based response to a variety of hurricanes.

I traveled to New Orleans after Katrina, Houston after Harvey, the Florida Panhandle after Michael and Puerto Rico after Irma and Maria. No doubt I’m forgetting a few.

Inevitably, those watching the disturbing images on television or social media want to help immediately.

But typically, assessing the needs requires a bit of time.

That leads us to Hurricane Ian, the megastorm setting its sights on South Carolina’s coast after causing catastrophic damage in Florida.

“The best way to help after Hurricane Ian is to give financially to established organizations responding to the disaster,” said Jamie Aten, co-founder of Spiritual First Aid and co-director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College in Illinois.

“Reach out to those you know who have been impacted to ask how you might help,” Aten added. “Our research shows that providing spiritual support and attending to basic needs helps reduce distress in the face of disasters.”

At Christianity Today, Aten and Kent Annan provide a “free spiritual and emotional toolkit for Hurricane Ian.”

President Joe Biden on Thursday praised Federal Emergency Management Agency workers mobilizing to help. The federal government’s response is, of course, crucial after a natural disaster.

But so is that of the “faith-based FEMA” — from Mennonite chainsaw crews to Southern Baptist feeding teams to Seventh-day Adventist warehousing experts adept at collecting, organizing and logging relief supplies, as I’ve written previously.

An umbrella group of faith-based agencies and secular charities comprise the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD).

Among the help on its way to Florida: tractor-trailer rigs full of food and emergency supplies from Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee.

Also: two field kitchens staffed with about 20 volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas’ disaster relief ministry.

“This captures the spirit of our volunteers,” Scottie Stice, the Texas group’s director, told the Houston Chronicle. “We’re a faith-based organization and have been praying against this hurricane, but we stand ready to serve the needs of the survivors in Florida with hot meals and recovery operations afterwards.”

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

Photo by Alan Youngblood, Baptist Press

%d bloggers like this: