Posted on : Sunday November 1, 2009

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

COLUMBIA, Md.—Preparing and responding to the swine flu pandemic is an opportunity for churches to prepare for disasters and to show the love of Christ to their communities.

“I’ve had many meetings with state and county officials and non-profit leaders and everyone is taking this very seriously,” Ellen Udovich, BCM/D missionary for disaster relief told General Mission Board members recently at a GMB meeting.

Being prepared for disasters will prepare a church for anything, including the pandemic, she said. This is a great time to take action, she said.

“How are you planning to take care of your folks?” she asked. Udovich said churches must have current contact information, a communications system in place and they need to identify those who are going to be vulnerable.

Udovich said she knew of one church that took bags of groceries, water and batteries and dropped them off at the homes of elderly and shut-ins in the fall. The supplies could be used in times of illness or even inclement weather. Whatever they didn’t use was donated elsewhere.

“Teach your folks to have three days worth of food and water for each person in the house,” she said.

Churches must also have continuity of operations plans. She told one story where a pastor was sick and when people arrived at the church no one else had a key. If the treasurer is sick, is there someone else authorized to sign checks? Who will take care of the money? Who can preach when the pastor is sick? Are substitute teachers available for Sunday school classes?

Sunday school teachers, greeters, and other leaders also must be aware of basic strategies to prevent the spread of the flu. Putting up signs in the bathrooms reminding folks to wash their hands can help as can reminding teachers to tell kids to cover their faces when they sneeze.

Udovich said churches must also teach their members that their neighbors are their mission fields. In addition to making preparations for themselves, they should be thinking of ways to prepare to help their neighbors if needed.

“Do your folks know how to go the second mile?” she asked.

“When I shovel my elderly neighbor’s snow, or pick up sticks in her yard, it’s a huge deal for her,” Udovich said.

The following websites provide more information and resources: