What would you do if you only had a few minutes warning before disaster struck? Gather your family? Grab your valuables? Or just find a safe place to take shelter? Those were the split second, life changing decisions that faced the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Springfield, Massachusetts. The Spring of 2011 will go down in US history as one of the most devastating tornado seasons ever, and a sobering reminder that we must be ever vigilant and ever prepared.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has trained 60 Orthodox clergy and lay persons in the U.S. in disaster preparedness and emergency management. They now form the backbone of the Emergency Response Network and have the concrete skills needed to deal with communities and parishioners in times of crisis, such as the 2011 tornadoes that have killed more than 500 people and left thousands more homeless.When tornadoes struck Alabama in April, Deacon Daniel Gray, a retired Naval Commander from Eagle River, Alaska, was immediately dispatched there and began working with local Orthodox Christian parishes to assess the damage and provide pastoral care to survivors in the rural towns of northeastern Alabama. Marsha, a Tuscaloosa resident, had never heard of the Orthodox Christian church before the disaster but was thankful for all of the personal hygiene items, tents, air mattresses and flashlights provided by IOCC as well as the pastoral support from our frontliner. "Deacon Dan was like the image of Christ's love amidst all of the wreckage," she recalls.
Responding quickly to victims of disaster with emergency relief and short-term recovery is at the heart of IOCC's mission and what we strive for whenever called upon, by God's grace, without discrimination. We could not do it, however, without the generous and ongoing support of our donors who make the resources available to us when needed, or without the members of our Emergency Response Network who have been specially trained to rise to the challenges that disaster leaves in its wake. To you, our supporters, and to our frontliners, we say thank you.