Church Response

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Emergency management officials say the level of need in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is far more than any other natural disaster in United States history.

In many cases, it seems that churches provided vital relief much faster than government agencies, adding another dimension to the church's role.

The federal government has been heavily criticized for its response to Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, churches and other religious organizations are being praised.

Now, in the weeks following the disaster, what we're hearing is that churches are doing what the government used to.

Before the august 29th storm, most in the United States turned first to the federal government for aid.

Now, within the past few weeks, it seems there has been a shift in resources for storm victims.

Eric Greer with Westgate Church of Christ says, "I think word of mouth has been very important in letting people know churches are involved and wanting to help...and have organized."

And some say these churches have stepped up to the plate now because they're more easily accessible in the event of an emergency. They can actually help victims immediately without having to go through the step-by-step process and 'red tape' that government agencies do.

Houston County EMA's Director, Shelby Womack says, "People could just see a need and address it right there without having to go through the stamps that you would have to go through with government agencies."

Quick response to those in need also provided churches an opportunity for evangelism, and networking.

Eric Greer agrees saying, "It's certainly made a lot of relationships to build on in the future should an event like this rise again. I think a lot of walls and barriers have been broken down...we know what each other can do. So that's a good thing for the future."

And the church is just one of many groups who are now planning ahead.

Shelby Womack says Houston County EMA officials are constantly updating their disaster relief plans.

They are now in the process of reviewing them to see what else they can do for future disasters.

The Wiregrass Christian relief effort has already helped 146-households, and those spearheading it say there are probably another 40 to 60 families who have not yet come forward for help.