Living Prepared

How congregations can prepare for “Help and Hope” in the midst of disaster

reviewed by Brianna Wagner

Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations is an anthology of personal stories and advice from people of faith about their experiences with disasters. Assembled and edited by Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin, a number of stories come out of communities that have experienced recent natural disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to Super-storm Sandy, as well as man-made tragedies, such as the shootings at the Aurora movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary. Other chapters offer guidelines on dealing with trauma in children and the best ways for individuals to reach out to communities in crisis. Each story adds a piece to the puzzle on why, in a world created by an all-powerful and loving God, disasters happen, and how to be prepared when they do.

Produced in cooperation with the Church World Service, an international faith-based emergency response and development organization, Help and Hope provides a practical yet sensitive guide for both congregations who experience tragedy and those who want to reach out to those afflicted by tragedy. While it advises churchgoers in practical matters, such as what kind of donations to send suffering communities and what denominational organizations have to offer in terms of recovery, the anthology offers critical insights into healing emotional and psychological trauma. Meeting immediate needs such as lack of food, water, and shelter is a necessity; long-term, homes must be rebuilt and insurance companies must be dealt with. However, there is no easy way to deal with the damage done within. The stress, fear and grief created by disaster can cause lasting damage, both within the individual and in the community.

Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin have assembled a diverse and thoughtful toolkit for congregations as they expect the unexpected. As Gopp points out, the question is not, “Will a disaster strike my community?” but rather “When disaster strikes my community and affects my life, how might I be best prepared to respond to it?” Help and Hope presents a comprehensive guide for congregations that answers just that.




  • Check on your members, neighbors and the elderly or vulnerable.
  • Check with your local VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) before collecting material donations.
  • Encourage your congregation to become involved in the formation of a long-term recovery committee.


  • Self-deploy as a volunteer, especially during the search and rescue phase.
  • Collect material donations without arranging an appropriate destination.
  • Organize material good distributions that might compromise an affected person’s eligibility for aid.

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