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The History of Disaster Response

Words of Life / Salvation Army
The Truth Network Radio
June 4, 2023 1:16 am

The History of Disaster Response

Words of Life / Salvation Army

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June 4, 2023 1:16 am

Today we launch a series highlighting the work The Salvation Army does in response to disasters. We will be joined by Bobbi Geery, the Disaster Operations and Deployment Manager for the USA Southern Territory. She offers insight on how The Army goes about responding to disasters and the recovery that takes place.



Series: Emergency Disaster Services


Hi, this is Bernie Dake. You're listening to the Salvation Army's Words of Life. All over the Gulf Coast calling Hurricane Katrina their own tsunami. It is a total catastrophic disaster.

A region that's been utterly devastated. Our response is generous and the need is overwhelming. The president is now touring one of the Salvation Army centers that have been set up to try and distribute relief. Just have the Salvation Army truck. The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army. Thank God for the Salvation Army.

Organizations like the Salvation Army would be taking care of them. The Army's mission is to serve the people who need our help and to preach the gospel of Christ. Well, welcome back to Words of Life. I'm Bernie Dake. And I'm Cheryl Gillum. We are so glad that you've joined us. We're starting a new series, five weeks, all about emergency disaster services and the Salvation Army. Cheryl, we have a special guest today.

We do. We want to welcome Bobbie Geary to our set. Welcome.

She's the disaster operations and deployment manager for the Southern Territory. Welcome to the show. Thanks.

It's great to be here with you guys. Now, Bobbie, we've known each other for a little while, but I actually wouldn't be able to tell our listeners how you came to the Salvation Army. Well, the short answer is God. Wow.

Seriously. So in 2008, I left my job and went back to school full-time at Fuller Theological Seminary. That coincided with the Great Recession. So for a year after I graduated, I couldn't find a job. So a friend of mine started working for the Salvation Army, and he hired me here in the Southern Territory in the HR department.

And that was in 2010. Nice. Well, we are glad you're here because you take part in a very critical aspect of Salvation Army ministry, which we know as the emergency disaster services. Now, for our listeners, depending on their age or what they know about the Salvation Army, they might know about the donut girls back from World War I, where we had sent people to the front lines, and these women were making donuts for the boys or writing letters home or literally washing their feet. Fast forward a century, really, and over the course of over 120 years, this ministry of disaster response has really developed, and that's what you play a part in.

Yeah, it sure has. I mean, going back to even my work before the Army, I found out about the Salvation Army through some mission trips that my students did in a previous work job. And so I was a part of actually helping the Salvation Army with Hurricane Katrina before I was ever employed by the Salvation Army, which I think is a really very cool thing that could have happened. Would you say that's what really attracted you to the Salvation Army? I think it definitely made me think about the mission and purpose and why the Salvation Army exists and what they do and the thought that I could actually be a part of that seemed pretty exciting to me. So essentially, you came in as being a volunteer. I did, yeah, indirectly, and then I was in HR, and now I'm in disaster services for the past 10 years, so that's great. Which, let's be honest, that's a much cooler way to serve.

It is. I often tell people that while I didn't mind working in HR, I really needed to be in a position that was more external-facing rather than internal. And so for me, part of that was in the work that the Salvation Army does in disasters. Yeah, you're literally, you get to see the frontline ministry of the Salvation Army. It's the best expression of our faith component through the emotional and spiritual aspect of disaster services and then also the practical care of giving someone the materials that they would need to help them in their crisis. Yeah. Now, can you tell us a little bit more about how the Salvation Army gets into disaster services, kind of the history of where we've come from?

Sure. You know, the story is that in the 1900s during the Galveston Hurricane, the Salvation Army commander at the time sent everyone, all officers, to Galveston to minister to those individuals who were left behind, who have lost everything, lost their families, lost friends, lost all of their physical items, and to serve the people on the ground there through our ministry of presence primarily. I think that's one of the greatest assets we have is that ministry of presence, but also looking at their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as key components of a holistic ministry to people who are hurting and struggling.

Yeah. During World War I, Salvation Army women volunteered and went straight to the front lines to make hot donuts and apple pie for the soldiers. They were nicknamed the Donut Girls, and the warm, tasty reminder of home they provided was greatly appreciated. When the Great Depression hit, the Salvation Army expanded their services of feeding lines and food distribution to provide more homeless shelters and lodging for the multitudes affected by poverty. Not only continuing the tradition of serving donuts and mobile canteens, Salvation Army volunteers would often be found working in the field hospitals during World War II. The Salvation Army was the first relief organization to arrive at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.

During the next few months of recovery, they were able to serve a total of 3.2 million meals to first responders and other volunteers. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the Salvation Army mobilized more than 178 canteen feeding units and 11 field kitchens, which together served more than 5.7 million hot meals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army is still at work, serving around the clock and providing hope to those that need it most. In times of despair and in times of need, the Salvation Army has been there and will continue to, because hope is greater than fear. I think one of the greatest aspects of disaster service or response is there's not one question when something happens about whether the Salvation Army will serve and what it will cost.

We just go. And we trust that the Lord will provide, and He has. It's been abundantly more than we could have ever thought or asked or imagined, as the Bible says. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. Oftentimes I think, oh, financially, how are we going to cover this?

But, you know, you're right. God is there. God's presence, God sees what we're doing. And I think that God then makes a way financially for us to do that from response all the way through to long-term recovery. You know, we can have opportunities to help people in need.

I think I'm just kind of being funny when I say you're both too young to remember Paul Harvey. But Paul Harvey was this great radio announcer back in the day, and he loved the Salvation Army. And he would often describe the Salvation Army as Christianity with its sleeves rolled up. And I love that because that's exactly what happens when there's a disaster or a need in a community because of some catastrophic happening.

The Salvation Army literally rolls up its sleeves and gets into the fray. And that's a pretty cool thing. Now, there's many aspects of our response, and Bobbi, you are intimately aware of how we utilize volunteers and trained professionals. Do you think maybe give us a 10,000-foot view of what you've seen or what we do and how we equip people to do that kind of work?

Sure. One of the things I think that sets us apart is our training program. So our volunteers, anyone who wants to be a volunteer on those front lines, who wants to deploy outside of their local area, goes through some pretty intensive training classes. You know, we want to make sure that the people that we put on the ground are capable of handling the challenges that they might face and that they're trained to handle those challenges as well. So most of our volunteers participate in classes like disaster food service, canteen operations. They learn about Serve Safe, how they handle and serve food correctly so that we don't contaminate it.

Important things, you know? We have classes designed to teach people how to offer emotional and spiritual care in the aftermath of a disaster. And then we also have training in the incident command system, which is the system that we use, like many other government and nonprofit agencies, to manage our disaster operations. And so all of that helps our volunteers, our employees, our officers, all of us to be prepared and to speak a common language and know what's expected of us. And that kind of standardization helps us whenever we serve. People from literally all over the country can come all over the continent. There's probably even some international people that come and serve alongside of us. But because of the standardized training, they're able to just muck in, as my British friends would say, which is pretty neat. It also gives great credentials to the Salvation Army to be able to partner with other agencies, in particular state and government, to really be boots on the ground, in ground zero, wherever the disaster is taking place. And so they have a lot of faith. It's a privilege.

It's an honor. Yeah. So Bobby, in your opinion, how does disaster services fit into the big picture of the Salvation Army? You've talked about the God aspect of bringing you here.

But now that you're here, you're on the inside looking out, how does it all tie in together? You know, the first thing that comes to my mind is the scripture where Jesus is talking about when you see the least of these, you care for them. And that's the Bobby paraphrase there.

Yeah. But we all know it. And so when we see someone hungry, when we see someone unclothed, when we see someone in need, then you're doing that in my name.

You're doing it as you're doing it unto him, as Jesus said. And so I think that that's precisely what disaster services does. We see the needs on the ground. I think the greatest bit of that is that we're also already there. You know, you mentioned being on the ground during Hurricane Irma when we were talking before this started and how you were a survivor of that.

But then you also were there to help others. And I think that that's one of the things that makes the Salvation Army separate from other organizations is we're there. We're in the zip code. We're in that location. And so we can be prepared to act very, very quickly.

And I think that all of that then looks at the bigger picture of what William Booth told us. Soup, soap, salvation, you know, physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs. And so I think all of that together really sets us apart and really brothers the mission and vision of the Salvation Army in general. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit to offer your support. And we'd love to hear from you. Call 1-800-229-9965 or visit to connect.

Tell us how we can help. Share prayer requests or your testimony. With your permission, we would love to use your story on the show. You can also subscribe to Words of Life on your favorite podcast store. Or visit to learn about more programs produced by the Salvation Army. And if you don't have a church home, we invite you to visit your local Salvation Army worship center. They'll be glad to see you. Join us next time for the Salvation Army's Words of Life.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-04 02:42:35 / 2023-06-04 02:47:51 / 5

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