Correspondent, Galveston News:

John Eckeberger serves as executive director of the 4B Disaster Response Network, headquartered at a Texas City warehouse. He’s been in these pages as part of that faith-based group’s ongoing help after floods and freezes, but now, he has a different benefit to offer local congregations: preparing your church before calamity falls.It’s all about having a group of trained volunteers in place well in advance of the next storm, and other practical tips, such as lists of what your church owns and what materials may have been set aside for post-hurricane repairs. These items and more will all be part of upcoming educational offerings from 4B DRN and the umbrella organization, Willing & Able Congregational Disaster Readiness, to which 4B belongs.“The main thing I would want to communicate to churches is to come onboard as a church partner, which translates to providing a disaster readiness coordinator who will serve as a liaison between the church and 4B,” Eckeberger said. “We will train the coordinators and equip them to organize volunteers within their churches, so that they can respond to a disaster in a way that is unique to their church.“We also need access at least once a year to communicate directly to the congregation, e.g. a table in the foyer after a ‘missions service,’” he said. “And lastly, to make an annual donation of at least $500 to 4B DRN.”This ministry model may seem new — the idea of positioning your church, staff and volunteers before the fact, instead of the more common approach of training them to tear out soaked Sheetrock and insulation and rebuild your facility, or that of another congregation, after a serious storm.The ministry sees such training as part of being faithful.“Readiness is biblical,” the training materials teach. “For, as Proverbs 13:16 says, ‘a wise person plans ahead.’”So, it might someday come as a surprise to open an upstairs church closet to find not Sun-day school materials but tools and building mate-rials set aside, not in the crunch that takes place after a crisis.We’ll run details on lo-cal training as soon they become available, but nothing will happen until a number of churches here sign up as interest-ed and willing to participate.Or, as the Houston Responds website puts it, “To execute a coordinated and comprehensive response to disaster, we must have as many congregations as possible working together through the Willing & Able program. Invite other congregations to participate. Disaster response ministry opens doors to loving our neighbors that could happen no other way and can powerfully trans-form both receivers, givers, congregations and entire communities.”For more details, visit