The past decade has been very hard on many people for a variety of reasons. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other tragedies shatter lives throughout the world. In addition to natural disasters, the threat and wake of terrorism has become commonplace.
Now more recently, we've experienced fires on the West Coast; a tropical storm in Houston; flooding in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh; and Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean.
Understanding the unique dynamic of these situations—and how and when to communicate the gospel within them—has perhaps never been as relevant as it is today.
To help identify and remember some of the complexities related to evangelism in the wake of trauma, we can use the acronym L.I.V.E.
Loss: Regardless of the circumstances, when disaster occurs, there is loss. It could be material possessions; homes, photos, keepsakes— or worse—the loss of a loved one. It is vital that the relief volunteer understands that the sense of loss won’t be magically wiped away. Promises should never be made concerning (spiritual) intangibles replacing the tangible losses victims are still recovering from.
Intrusion: Despite the well-intentioned efforts of all relief volunteers and professionals, any victim will feel a sense of intrusion following a disaster. Their lives have been laid bare—including all the pain associated with the trauma. And into that void walks strangers on whom they now must rely for even the most basic of necessities.
Vulnerability: The loss and sense of intrusion will naturally result in the intense feeling of vulnerability during the time of recovery and possibly long after. It is particularly important that any relief worker with a desire to share the gospel avoid any behavior that could hint of even the slightest manipulation.
Escape: It might be tempting to offer the gospel as an escape from the inevitable suffering in this life. This is particularly true when walking through such a traumatic time as post-disaster. However, we must avoid using the promise of eternal life as a panacea that will gloss over the immediate concerns of the day.
Roles and Responsibilities
So practically, what are our roles and responsibilities for evangelizing victims of tragedy? Consider the following five guidelines:
- Assist them in any capacity for which you have been trained and are competent.
- Assure the victims you are there to provide help without remuneration (Not “quid pro quo”).
- Avoid using manipulative language or actions.
- Assert the reason why you serve, and
- Allow time for questions, conversation and the possibility of follow-up by you or someone else.
Finally, always remember—you do not have to take the weight of a soul on your shoulders. Sometimes all you can do is be there for someone who is hurting.
Remember the differences between our role and God’s role in evangelism.
We are responsible for contact. Ultimately, God is responsible for conversion.
- Take EvanTell's free "Evangelism in Disaster and Victim Relief" online training