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Preparing for Our Next Disaster

October 2016

During Chinese New Year, Taiwan experienced a deadly earthquake with hundreds of casualties. All sorts of aid poured into the country. Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan, put on a lighting display to pay tribute to the earthquake victims. “May the heavens bless Taiwan” was the most common phrase that was used in media reports. In face of disasters, Taiwanese have once again shown their generosity, unity, and spirituality.

After 6 months, most of us have forgotten about it, because our brains are wired to forget what we perceive as irrelevant. But for the communities that are still deeply affected by the disaster, how can their situation lead them to become disciples of Jesus?

Let us look at the different phases that communities affected by disasters go through. First, the heroic phase is characterised by altruistic action to save their own and others’ lives and property. People are willing to expend major energy in helping others to survive and recover. Then, in the honeymoon phase, survivors have a strong sense of having shared with others a dangerous experience and having lived through it. They also see an influx of official persons who promise all kinds of help.

Afterwards comes the disillusionment phase, when strong feelings of disappointment, anger, resentment and bitterness may appear if delays occur and the expectations for aid are not fulfilled. Outside agencies may pull out and some of the indigenous community groups may become unadaptive.

So we can see that support is ideally provided by organisations that are likely to maintain a sustained community presence in the emergency area. This is why long-term work by mission-minded bodies is essential. But there is more to learn from this.

In the past, there was a swing towards using clinical mental health skills in emergency settings. But it was later recognised that psychosocial support in emergencies is best delivered as a community- based activity, rather than within a medical health system.

This means that the best care is that provided by the usual services in the area (assuming they have not been completely disrupted by the disaster) and that they are most accepted within the community.

Long term mission is long term preparation. Although missionaries initially may not see many “end results”, it is vital that they become part of the community. Then missionaries will be in a position to be an influence to the community at those unique times even hard-hearted communities open up themselves for transformation by the gospel. Pray that Taiwanese working class communities open up for gospel transformation, and that OMF missionaries will be prepared to minister to them at times of crisis.

Jason & Hiwin Tam – Puxin

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