by Kathy Heinrichs Wiest for Meetinghouse
“In disasters, the church and the state need to work closely together,” said David Myers, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security in his address to Mennonite Disaster Service’s (MDS) Annual All-Unit Meeting.
“That statement should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” he added.
Myers, who serves as a senior advisor to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Craig Fugate, spoke at MDS’s February 8 gathering in Bakersfield, California. The meeting brought together some 250 MDS leaders and volunteers from throughout the United States and Canada.
In his formal remarks and in an interview, Myers reflected on the value as well as the hazards of church and government working together.
An ordained Mennonite minister, Myers is well-aware of the tension that a church-government partnership evokes. He cited the story of the Swiss Anabaptists’ defiance of the state church control in 1525 as the “artesian well” that eventually grew into “the great and beautiful river that separates the church and the state in this country.”
His own role as a Mennonite working in government makes for regular encounters with the tension in church-state relations. “There hasn’t been a day in almost five years that I haven’t at least in some way had to negotiate the separation of church and state. That’s hard for a Mennonite to do,” he said.
But, he contended, MDS must navigate that tension because the needs of communities in times of disaster require the complementary resources the partnership provides. While government agencies bring financial resources, re-building and fostering resilience in communities requires the human presence that voluntary organizations like MDS bring.
“Humans need to feel connected, attached to others, especially when your world has been upended,” he pointed out.
Myers pointed to the government’s response to the 2009 floods in Alaska where FEMA purchased building materials in bulk for eligible survivors and helped fund travel expenses for expert volunteer labor from MDS and other Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs). “FEMA could have brought contractors in to do [the rebuilding] but they would not have built the relationships. And it saved the government money!”
To read entire article, click here: Church-State Partnership in Disaster Response
MDS featured in new book
Brenda Phillips, PhD, Associate Dean at Ohio University in Chillicothe, has published a new book titled “Mennonite Disaster Service and the Gulf Coast Recovery“ A long-time friend of MDS, she is a widely published author on disaster recovery and socially vulnerable populations and has received numerous awards and recognition. Phillips is donating all of the royalties of book sales to MDS. To order a book at a download an order form here or call the Binational Office, (717) 735-3536. The book will be “library quality,” so consider donating a copy to your church library.
The book has been described as an “academic study and a story—a truly engaging one—of people helping people in a very special way. This is a close up view of those who experienced the destruction of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike and those from the Mennonite Disaster Service who came to help. Together they built a classic therapeutic community. This important book is a valuable resource not only for students and academics who will find rich empirical support for many theoretical concepts, but for anyone who wants to understand and appreciate giving and receiving in disaster recovery.”— Maureen Fordham, Northumbria University
MDS featured on NBC Nightly News! MDS was featured on the NBC Nightly News on March 29, 2011. To see the story that features our Diamond, La. project, click on the link below:
MDS on the News