Florida Church Drafting Crisis Response Plan

Post a Comment » Written on March 7th, 2007     
Filed under: News
DELAND, FL (March 7, 2007) – Members of Community Covenant Church are making plans to help their neighbors in the event of future disasters, even as they work through tough questions left behind by a tornado that killed two of the congregation’s members, orphaned the couple’s 16-year-old son, and destroyed the homes of three other families.

“Churches are organizing for disaster relief,” says Community’s pastor, Dave Shaw. “Many people in our church will soon be certified through disaster relief training with credentials that will enable us to go into disaster areas and deploy in whatever ways we are equipped to serve.”

Shaw adds he will be credentialed to go anywhere in town where church members live and minister on the spot. “Access to disaster areas is the key need,” he explains. “You can’t just show up in a torn-up area and offer to help.”

His help, as well as that of others in DeLand, was needed in the days following a tornado that struck the area in the early morning hours of February 2 and killed Michael and Melinda Sluss, injuring their teenage son, Aaron, and destroying the homes of three other families in the church.

Church members are dealing with the questions that remain following the disaster even as they prepare for the future. “The loss was huge,” Shaw says.

“We said in worship that our faith would either grow weaker or stronger because of this experience of loss,” says Shaw, who characterizes the mood of the congregation as “quite positive.” He adds, however, that time will be needed to sort through the issues of what happened, noting that “the faith of a few was really rocked by the senseless tragedy.”

People experienced tragedy as many had never done before. “The scene at the Sluss property was unimaginable,” Shaw says. “Everything was shredded like it had been run through a huge lawn mower.

“We have talked frequently about the irony that Aaron was sucked out his bedroom window – his last memory of the incident – at the last possible moment before there was no longer a window or even a home, the moment when his parents lost their lives,” Shaw says. “So, in the very same instant that there was such a violent tragic loss of life, there was clear evidence of the saving power of Christ remarkably preserving the son. He was literally lifted up in the storm and carried over the tops of the trees that remained, and was laid down in a field across the road gently enough that his injuries were minor.”

Shaw adds, “It was the illustration of Hebrews 2:8-9, when it says that at present we do not see everything submitted to him, but we see Jesus. This was my message the following week. In moments of senseless tragedy, sometimes it is possible in the worst spot to see Jesus moving or at work right there. That realization brings comfort.”

Aaron is doing as well as can be expected, Shaw says. The community and others around the country, including several Covenant churches, have given more than $13,000 to the church for his short-term needs, and a trust fund has been created to receive gifts for his long-term needs.

Those desiring to donate can mail gifts made payable to the church, earmarked for the Sluss fund, to the church at 1255 Glen Royal Terrace, Deland, FL, 32720. More information is available at the Community Covenant Church website.

The tornado that killed the Sluss family was one of three that struck Central Florida on February 2. Another tornado caused heavy damage to the home of retired Covenant Pastor James Swanson. Repairs have begun on his home, but will require some time to complete, he says.

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