Just about a year ago, Foursquare Chaplains International Director Robby Booth told the Foursquare family about a goal to equip some 800 Foursquare pastors and leaders to be FEMA-approved first responders. That lofty goal very likely will be met—maybe even surpassed.

As of this writing, more than 675 Foursquare men and women have participated in one of eleven 16-hour training sessions that have been held from Oregon to Alabama to New Jersey, and many places in between. These sessions are indeed one of the most significant resource training opportunities offered to our Foursquare pastors in 2011.

“The response is phenomenal,” reports Jay Donnelly, a disaster relief chaplain endorser who also serves as national coordinator of fire chaplains, chaplain representative to the Central Pacific District, and senior pastor of New Life Christian Center (Jackson Foursquare Church) in Sutter Creek, Calif. “The enthusiasm and passion in the hearts of people is incredible.”

Jay calls the strong move toward disaster relief training “divine timing,” adding: “This has been stirring in the heart of the Foursquare movement for some time. Now we can offer specific training that lets people know what to do when disaster strikes.”

Besides meeting FEMA standards for disaster relief workers, those who participate in the Foursquare training sessions have another advantage: They are able to offer help in ways that are most appropriate to the particular situation.

Just this spring, when tornadoes struck Alabama, 88 trained Foursquare responders were deployed to the area. They helped with cleanup, provided supplies and assisted in shelters.

Weeks later, when Joplin, Mo., was hit by deadly tornadoes, the needs were different: Most of the victims were able to find housing with friends and relatives, so shelters were not used nearly as much as in Alabama. In this case, a team of 10 trained volunteers spent a week in the area, focusing on spiritual care and crisis intervention, because that was what was most needed.

The focus on meeting spiritual needs as well as physical needs is a key factor that sets Foursquare disaster relief workers apart from some other groups.

“When people go through tragedy, there is an open door to not only help them with physical needs, but also to minister,” Robby affirms. “If the victims are Christians, this gives them a sense that their family has come alongside them.”

Huey Hudson, pastor of Restoration (Huntsville Foursquare Church) in Madison, Ala., had firsthand experience working with the Foursquare disaster relief team in the aftermath of the spring tornadoes.

“They were a tremendous help and support,” Huey says, adding that the presence of the team “allowed our church to be a presence in the community when things began to return to normal.”

Jason Maloney, senior pastor of NewLife Christian Center (Upland Foursquare Church) in Upland, Calif., is a disaster relief chaplain who spent 10 days in Alabama in the aftermath of the tornadoes as part of a team whose main focus was providing spiritual care.

“There were chaplains from [many church groups],” Jason recalls, “Southern Baptists, Dallas Theological Seminary and others. It was so good to see the churches work together in unity. It gave me renewed hope that there really can be unity among Christians.”

While training sessions recently wrapped up for 2011, more are planned for 2012 and will be added to www.foursquare.org/chaplains when registration is available.

By: Tammy Dunahoo, general supervisor of The Foursquare Church