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The crucial role of the church in humanitarian response work

Tearfund is equipping local churches around the world to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

Written by Agnes McGrane | 18 Aug 2022

Credit: David Mutua/Tearfund

For more than 50 years, Tearfund has found partnering with local churches to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to help communities lift themselves out of poverty. This World Humanitarian Day, we want to celebrate how churches around the world are supporting people affected by humanitarian emergencies.

Equipped to respond

Local churches have often built long-term relationships within their neighbourhoods and, because of this, are more likely to be trusted than an external agency. They also know the strengths and needs of their communities best. That’s why Tearfund equips local churches with training and resources so that they are ready to respond to crises.

‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’
– Isaiah 1:17

Welcoming refugees

In Colombia, churches are playing a key role in welcoming and supporting the millions of refugees who have fled political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. 

Churches have been able to reach out to remote communities – where local authorities and humanitarian organisations were not working – and build trusting relationships with refugees.

With support and funding from Tearfund, these churches have been equipped to provide quality services and activities. This includes trauma healing groups for women who have experienced violence.

‘It is the first support that I found here in Colombia for migrants like us,’ says Julie, a Venezuelan refugee who attends a trauma healing group. ‘When I arrived at the church, I found the peace that I previously did not have… when I got to the church, I saw that it was like my family.’

 Julie, a refugee from Venezuela, found a supportive community through the trauma healing group run by her local church. Credit: Luis Alvarez/Tearfund

Tearfund has trained more than 100 church leaders to run trauma healing groups across Colombia. These groups are now supporting hundreds of Venezuelan refugee women.

‘It has allowed me to see that the church is not only about preaching the gospel but also to address the social issues people face,’ Pastor José Licona, from San Juan de Urabá, says. ‘The unconditional support we have had [from Tearfund] allows us to better organise ourselves to serve the people who really need it.’

Responding to disasters

Local churches are often among the first responders when disasters strike in their communities. Tearfund helps churches in disaster-prone areas to prepare their communities to be ready for when disasters strike, to limit potential damage, and to develop emergency response plans.

In Bangladesh, the response of just one church has benefited thousands. During a period of extreme flooding, Pastor Martin and his church decided to pool their resources to help the most vulnerable people. They got to work delivering food and essential supplies. This support extended far beyond their community, reaching eight local villages and about 10,000 people.

 Pastor Martin stands outside his church, which has become a hub of support in his community. Credit: Shahadat Hossain/Tearfund

Pastor Martin’s church has now become known in the community as a place where people can find support. And Tearfund’s local partner has helped to renovate the church building, so that it can be used as a shelter during cyclones and other disasters.

‘I am so thankful,’ says Pastor Martin. ‘Please pray for us so that we will be able to overcome all our problems.’

Tackling hunger

Millions of people across East Africa are currently facing extreme hunger after a prolonged period of drought. One of the areas most affected is Borena, in southern Ethiopia, where our local church partner has been responding by coordinating a cash distribution.

The communities in Borena rely on rearing livestock and growing crops for their food and income. But there has been no rainfall for years. Since the water sources dried up, most of their livestock have died and they can no longer grow any crops.

‘The changing climate has severely affected [communities in Borena]. Their cattle have died, their livelihoods have been affected seriously. They can’t even send their children to school because they can’t [afford to] feed the children,' says Abraham Kasaye, who is overseeing the humanitarian response in Borena.

Abraham, who works with Tearfund's local church partner in Ethiopia, oversees a cash distribution in a drought-affected community in Borena. Credit: Tearfund

Every person in the community has been affected by the drought. Our church partner used funds from Tearfund to distribute cash to the most vulnerable households. But more resources are needed to support every household in need.

‘God is a provider. So we humbly ask for your prayers to get enough resources, to get enough rainfall,’ says Abraham. 

Support our church partners

Our teams are working with churches around the world to respond to humanitarian crises right now – such as the hunger crisis in East Africa, conflict in Yemen, and extreme flooding in Pakistan. If you are able to, please donate to our work around the world.

Your gift can help our local church partners respond to humanitarian crises

Please donate now

‘Local churches are playing a vital role in responding to humanitarian emergencies around the world. They can quickly mobilise volunteers, reach remote communities, and care for their communities in ways external agencies are not always able to,’ says Veena O’Sullivan, Tearfund’s International Director.

'We are honoured to play a part in equipping these local churches. Please join us in prayer for our local church partners who are putting God’s love into action and providing support to some of the most vulnerable people.’

Pray with us

    • Thank God for all the churches that are responding to humanitarian crises around the world. Ask that they will be filled with God’s strength and wisdom as they reach out to people in their communities.
    • Lift up everyone who has been affected by humanitarian emergencies. Pray that they will quickly receive the emotional and practical support they need.
    • Pray that even more churches will be equipped to respond to disasters and crises and become beacons of hope to people in need.

Written by

Written by  Agnes McGrane

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