This is a selection of some slides of the town hall presentation at St. Martin de Porres Auditorium, St. Maarten, on 39th May, 2018.

1. Why do disasters happen?

DISASTERS if correctly classified as NATURAL come with the natural order of things such as those caused by movements of the Earth, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and hurricanes.

There is the natural order of things, such as the progressions of seasons most obvious in temperate lands with summer production before harvest time after which comes non-production period of winter. In this regard, the wisdom of Proverbs (6:6-8) advises: “ Go to the ant, you lazybones;
  consider its ways, and be wise.
 Without having any chief
    or officer or ruler,
 it prepares its food in summer,
  and gathers its sustenance in harvest”.

2. Acts of God? ( Can God be vexed?)

Genesis 6:5-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord.

3. Preparing for tough times ahead ( Any biblical precedent?)

Genesis 37-50
Later in the Book of Genesis, Joseph, Jacob’s son, the dreamer was imprisoned in Egypt. Pharaoh had a dream which Joseph interpreted to mean that there would be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of disaster- famine. Pharaoh’s response was to appoint Joseph to a place of prominence where he(Joseph) would oversee disaster preparedness in the sense of storing provisions for the years of famine.

4. Two personal anecdotes. I don’t employ scare tactics

Am I trying to scare you?
NO!  2 anecdotes to share. I have to give these in person. My pen does not have the auditory and visual recall of these teaching moments!

5. A biblical theological perspective

God does not obliterate suffering, but uses it for good. ‘All things work together for good, to those who love God.’ (Rom.8.28) God shares our suffering and will bring it good from it, if we are faithful to him in love. Further, suffering can provide a time to re-assess our lives; it may compel us to re-order our priorities and hopes and give God a higher priority, and give submission to his will in all things a deeper meaning for us
Campbell, A., 1987 “Theodicy” A Dictionary of Pastoral Care

6.  A psychological critical perspective on this

General optimism (Janoff-Bulman)
“..we believe we are good people who live in a benevolent, meaningful world. These three positive assumptions co-exist at the core of our assumptive world. They are not narrow beliefs, but broad, abstract conceptions that are also emotionally potent… Our basic beliefs do not exist independent of emotions; rather, positive feelings are inextricably tied to our fundamental assumptions”

7. Pre-existing problems exacerbate the effects of disaster ( disasters waiting to happen)

An observation from the Montserrat situation- UNPREPAREDNESS

“We weren’t prepared at all. We were very, very ill prepared…didn’t an evacuation plan set up and we still don’t.”  (Church Leader, March 04, 2004)

8, Pre- existing problems included: 

Inconsistent / inadequate theologies
Deficiencies in pastoral training (clergy & laity)
Insufficient self-awareness
Lack of counselling skills
Unhelpful/ inappropriate leadership styles
Devaluation of indigenous coping resources. I need 10 minutes to illustrate.

9. Prepare! Do now – before disaster

1. Disaster preparedness plan re. logistics
2. also take inventory of caring potential: Questions to ask-
What resources does our faith community have to help it to cope in disaster and suffering?
Reclaim hidden or marginalised coping resources?
Determine and deploy these ( historico-cultural helps) so the community exercises effective stewardship of its caring resources?

( We can laugh at ourselves and rejoice and dance as we recognize our gifts for coping- marvelous and wonderful they are,)

10, Do later- after disaster

Once we have survived the disaster, we must reflect- do theology to help us cope

I have lots to share from the Montserrat experience on that, Theological reflection is an excellent coping and growth stimulating enterprise in the wake of disaster.

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