From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Presbyterian World Service Announces Formation
25 May 1996 05:35:21
23 May 1996
96189 Presbyterian World Service Announces Formation of
the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Seasoned by its experience responding to natural disasters
during the last several years, Presbyterian World Service (PWS) has created
the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team (PDAT) to assist congregations
and middle governing bodies in responding to disasters within their bounds.
"A caring community is the most important factor in someone's recovery
from a disaster," explained the Rev. Dan Rift, associate director for
global service and witness in the Worldwide Ministries Division in
Louisville. "The church has a powerful gift to provide in responding to
At its formative meeting April 25-28 in Nashville, PDAT gathered 45
volunteers from 20 states and Puerto Rico. The team includes leaders from
middle governing bodies and churches who have experience in responding to
natural and human-caused disasters. PDAT will provide a talent pool from
which churches and middle governing bodies can draw advisors to assist in
their disaster responses.
Stan Hankins, PWS associate for disaster response in the United
States, stressed that the emphasis of the team is on placing Presbyterians
experienced in disaster response at the disposal of local leaders, not on
managing disaster response from afar. He said PDAT "builds on the
strengths of the connectional nature of the Presbyterian Church by allowing
churches and presbyteries to draw on the resources of sister churches and
presbyteries." When called upon, Hankins added, team members will go to
the site of the disaster and assist local leaders who are developing a plan
"The people who are in that region decide what mission and ministry
are for their community," Rift noted. "Presbyteries and their churches
make the decisions. [The network] puts the energy of the denomination
Depending on the scale of response necessitated by a disaster, teams
of up to three or four PDAT members will be dispatched. Reponse teams'
work will be organized into four basic functions: team leadership, pastoral
care, volunteer management and logistics.
What the church offers in disaster situations, according to PDAT
member the Rev. Robert Madsen of Franklin, Tenn., is "the solid theological
conviction that human agents are not alone in the midst of disaster."
Secular organizations bring a variety of gifts in disaster response
situations, he explained, "but the church brings the message of the
presence of God in even the most dire circumstances."
"Terrible things happen in life," Rift acknowledged, "but God is in
the middle of them. Moving forward is a move toward redemption. Turning
[a disaster] around is a sign of grace."
(information for this story furnished by the Rev. Robert Madsen)
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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