From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presbyterian World Service Announces Formation

Date 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 
of response. 
     "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 
behind them." 
     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   Web page: 


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