Natural disasters are good press. Its a sure thing. Its like marketing Jesus. You can’t go wrong. But, much like marketing Jesus, you can’t stick with the same old spiel. You have to be fresh and relevant. You have to go with the flow.
When Iowa was hit with severe flooding this summer, it made the national news. The major networks were comparing the damage to that of hurricane Katrina, and rightfully so. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 25 miles from where I live, suffered tremendous loss. Over 400 city blocks and something like 20,000 homes were flooded. Iowa City was basically a lake, thought the damage was less widespread than some of the other cities in the area. It was truly a disaster.
There is always a honeymoon period after a disaster. After the initial search and rescue stuff subsides, people begin to rally around one another. Volunteers come out of the woodwork. The assistance agencies swing into full action. Churches are motivated to love their neighbors and put aside their differences. The news has a sweet period of positive coverage while the community comes together to make the world a better place. And, for a little while, it is.
The problem comes when the relief effort winds down. Volunteers are taxed, agencies are beginning their fund raising programs and returning to their regular scheduled programming, churches are back to churching, and the news is looking for the next great disaster to cover. We know that the relief effort lasts about ten times the duration of the disaster itself, and that the recovery phase is about ten times the duration of the relief effort. So, here in Iowa, we had about ten or twelve days of heavy flooding. That means that we have between one hundred and one hundred and twenty days of relief work, which is about over now. So, based on those numbers, our recovery process will last about one thousand to twelve hundred days. So, how do we intend to last that long?
Well, we last because we have to. We do our best to keep the public informed and alert. We hold meetings and escort teams of volunteers to the hardest hit areas in town. I am glad that Hurricane Gustav was not a crushing blow to the city of New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans about five times in my life, and I love that place. I have no desire to see it destroyed. But I want to give proper dillengence to those who suffer from disasters. There are stories to tell and people to help. There is news in the aftermath of disasters, even if it isn’t fresh and juicy and awful. As the hurricane season gears up and the news media crouches for the next pounce, let us not forget the folks that are still recovering from the last crushing blow.