We are shocked and saddened by the images coming out of Joplin, Missouri; other areas of the South and as far north as Massachusetts. The devastation and total destruction was staggering. Houses moved or obliterated; families separated, survivors watching while loved ones were torn away right in front of their eyes; a huge scar carved through the ground. It really does defy the imagination. Those never touched by such fury cannot grasp the physical or emotional effects. Not from stories, not from pictures, not from video.
After a tragedy like this we are always asked “Is RescueNet going?” or, often less diplomatically, “Why isn’t RescueNet going?” There is a “simple” answer, but it’s never really simple for our team. Let me explain:
RescueNet’s mandate is to serve those in the developing world affected by natural or man-made disasters. Our primary focus is to assist those who do not have and cannot even comprehend the kind of resources we take for granted here in North America. Say what you will about FEMA and their response times and methods, most of the world would be utterly staggered to have even a fraction of those resources available to them. A massive organized, rapid response like we have come to expect is nowhere in their mental construct. That’s where we want to be – where we are truly needed. That’s the simple answer.
The complicated part? Well, do we want to be in Joplin? Of course. We are a team of people with huge, compassionate hearts. We want to be alongside everyone who is hurting. Everyone we can help. We are also a team of volunteers with limited budgets and vacation days (yes, most of our team use vacation time for these responses.) We need to use our resources wisely, discerningly. Where can each of our personal dollars and our donors’ dollars be put to the best use? Thankfully our tax dollars and many volunteers from across the country have poured in Joplin and the surrounding communities. It is still a long, heartbreaking road for everyone in that affected area, but help has come and is coming and will continue to come.
Does that mean we would never respond to a disaster in North America, Europe or other developed nations? Of course not. We weigh the information on each tragedy we see in a lot of prayer. Every crisis is on the table. This year already we have tracked, evaluated and prayed through over a dozen crises from the US to Madagascar. We are a lot more likely to go to an impoverished region than a wealthy, prepared one, but we will make ourselves available anywhere we can truly be of service to victims of mass catastrophe. Someday there could be another Katrina, or another Northridge quake. We would probably be there. If something of that scale happened somewhere without FEMA teams, we would almost definitely be there.
(Click here for before-and-after satellite imagery.)