Children’s Disaster Services Begins New Collaboration with Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Disciples Home Missions (DHM), Week of Compassion, and the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), are collaborating with the Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) to create a new position and initiative that will help meet the needs of children affected by disaster.

A new memorandum of understanding outlines this partnership, providing the framework for a three-year focus on expanding CDS in the Gulf Coast region. Funding provided by the Disciples Home Mission, the National Benevolent Association, and Week of Compassion will develop a new role of a Gulf Coast coordinator. This individual will support the developing and training of a larger network of volunteers in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. By engaging the strength and networks of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ congregations and their significant children’s ministries, the organizers see great potential to better meet the needs of children in this disaster-prone area.

Collaboration enlarges volunteer pool

The partnership includes the training of interested church members and others in the region as CDS volunteers, and for leadership roles supporting volunteer coordination and volunteer training. A primary goal is to train 250 potential volunteers in the next 3 years. After completing a certification process including a criminal record check, these volunteers will provide direct care to children in shelters and service centers after a disaster. The volunteers will be organized into rapid response teams to be the first caregivers responding after a disaster in their region. These volunteers also will be called to serve larger disasters outside of the region.

“The Church of the Brethren is excited for this expanding partnership between the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ and Children’s Disaster Services,” said Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “For several years our two churches have been in conversations on how to work together as peacemakers. I can think of no better way than for our volunteers to join their gifts and talents in providing a caring service ministry for children affected by disaster. It is a ministry that seeks to reconcile the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims after disaster.”

“For years, Disciples of Christ members have been volunteering with CDS,” commented Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. “At this critical time in the history of CDS, this partnership helps grow the program beyond the capacity of one denomination. Together we can expand this ministry in critical disaster-prone areas to better meet the needs of children and families impacted by disasters.”

“Children have unique needs following disaster,” explained CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller. “They feel the chaos and stress of the disaster and need opportunities to express their feelings and their experiences through play. Our dedicated leaders and volunteers are well trained to provide the nurturing adult presence and open-ended play experiences that support the healing process for children. This partnership will allow us to expand our program in areas of high need.”

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leaders comment

“As Disciples, we are a movement for wholeness, God’s wholeness,” said general minister and president for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Sharon Watkins. “We respond in times of human need and disaster, for we recognize our connectedness to one another. This partnership is truly part of our call to be a faithful witness.”

Brandon Gilvin, associate director of Week of Compassion, said, “As part of our ministry as the Disaster, Development, and Refugee Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion looks for partners in our denominational and ecumenical families to respond to critical needs in the wake of disasters. The partnership between Disciples Volunteering, DHM’s Children and Family Ministries, the National Benevolent Association (NBA), and Children’s Disaster Services will provide a new avenue for volunteers to show the love of Christ to children impacted by tornados, floods, and other devastating events.”

“Disciples Volunteering is thrilled to share in this endeavor, partnering with ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren in response to the needs of children, who are among the most vulnerable following disaster,” reflected Josh Baird, director of Disciples Volunteering at Disciples Home Missions (DHM). “Together, we look forward to expanding and enhancing the critical work of Children’s Disaster Services while equipping Disciples to offer their gifts in service to their neighbors.”

Disciples Home Missions’ Olivia Updegrove also reflected on her excitement about the emerging partnership: “The love for children and the need to care for our children at all times and in all situations flows from us as compassionate, faithful people. The Family and Children’s ministry team stands in an ecumenical relationship of both Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. This relationship opens doors for more people and congregations to be prepared to respond when disaster strikes, and Gods love is not found in a name or title, but in a response to heal the soul.”

The collective endeavor of Disciples ministries and the Church of the Brethren supports the work of creating communities of compassion and care, a primary commitment of the ministries of the National Benevolent Association. Mark D. Anderson, president and CEO, said, “This new collaborative partnership creates some significant connections among Disciples congregations and also Disciples-related health and social service agencies, especially those serving families and children. The partnership provides more opportunities for faithful Disciples to be trained and equipped to respond in times of crisis as well as to resource agencies who provide care to children each day. We are eager to nurture these increased opportunities for compassionate care.”

Regional coordinator to be sought

The regional coordinator role is key for the success of the initiative. This part-time paid position  will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops, and must live in a Gulf Coast state. Details will be released soon about this new position. For more information about the regional coordinator position, or if you or your congregation would like to know more about Children’s Disaster Services or be trained in rapid response volunteer leadership, contact CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or kfry-miller@brethren.org .

About Children’s Disaster Services: Since 1980, CDS has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained volunteers arrive with a “Kit of Comfort” with carefully selected toys that promote imaginative play and support the healing process. To learn more, visit www.childrensdisasterservices.org .

About Disciples Home Missions: Disciples Home Missions is committed to equipping disciples for Christ and connecting people to the life-changing love of God. Disciples Home Missions is the enabling and coordinating division of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the US and Canada in the areas of congregational program and mission in North America. To learn more, visit www.discipleshomemissions.org .

About the National Benevolent Association: Serving as the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the NBA partners with local congregations, regional and general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers. The NBA incubates new and emerging Disciples-related health and social service ministries, initiates ministry programs designed to establish and grow partnerships around health and social service ministries, and connects direct care providers, emerging social service ministries, local congregations, and mission partners so that all may learn, collaborate, and grow stronger together. To learn more, visit www.ncares.org .

About Week of Compassion: Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, seeking to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development, and the promotion of mission opportunities. To learn more, visit www.weekofcompassion.org .

— This release was provided with help from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).