How did a radio engineer end up transitioning into a career in disaster ministry? To find out, you’ll have to listen to our next Sunspots Disaster Partnership Conversations episode and get to know a very special person named, Kathy Broyard.
Kathy Broyard is the Executive Director and Emergency Management Specialist of FLAPDAN (what a great acronym, right?). After two years of catastrophic hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 – Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Katrina & Wilma – the six presbyteries encompassing the state of Florida began having discussions around, “How can presbyteries support one another during times of disasters?”
Hence, the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, wonderfully known as FLAPDAN, was born and has since served as a blueprint for other Presbyterian regional networks like the South Carolina Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team (SC PDAT), Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Puerto Rico, and yours truly, the Synod Partnership for Disaster Recovery (SPDR).
Our podcast episode covers a broad range of topics included:
Recommended next steps for any churches or presbyteries interested in developing a similar partnership where groups of presbyterians are able to support one another during times of disaster,
What is “Long Term Recovery” and how is it related to a covered dish dinner? (Spoiler alert: Each organization brings their speciality to the table!),
How an individual or church can take action today to increase their resiliency when a disaster does happen, such as enrolling members of disabilities with your local registry ahead of a disaster, and
FLAPDAN’s response to natural disasters as well as human-caused disasters, such as the Pulse Nightclub and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.
And of course, we discussed the recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian and the impact Hurricane Idalia has had on Florida this past summer. Kathy shared with us stories of how FLAPDAN and local presbytery leadership advocated for migrant farm workers to receive disaster assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, and how First Presbyterian Church of Crystal River distributed 175 clean up buckets to their neighbors after Hurricane Idalia brought seven to nine feet of storm surge to their area.
The response and recovery efforts are ongoing, so here are ways you can support the ministry of FLAPDAN, even if you live within the Synod of the Sun or beyond:
Give generously through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. After Hurricanes Michael and Irma, the grants PDA sent to Florida totaled over $1.5 million dollars! As Kathy explains on the podcast, these funds come directly from the people in the pews, wherever you are in the country.
Assemble the Gifts of the Heart Kits and deliver them to Ferncliff or to a local staging area to provide immediate supplies and resources when needed.
Organize a volunteer work group and go to Florida! Buckingham Presbyterian Church in Ft. Myers is already hosting volunteers willing to help repair homes damaged by Hurricane Ian in 2022. You can contact Bob Peterman at 315-730-8695 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details and information about scheduling your visit.
And of course, to pray.
If you hear nothing else from this podcast or glean anything from Kathy Broyard and the enduring ministry of FLAPDAN, I want you to consider the imagery Kathy provided to us regarding the covered dish dinner. Each body of believers holds something unique that I believe God invites us to share, much like the bread that was blessed, broken, and given to the hordes of hungry people listening to Jesus’ teachings all those years ago.
What is the special dish God is inviting you and your congregation to bring around the table, where those gathered are dedicated to restoring lives and communities impacted by disasters of all kinds?
Released on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ian, this video by local songwriter, Sheena Brook, was filmed on Ft. Myers Beach in and around the ruins of one of our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) churches, Chapel By The Sea. She describes writing it the day after the storm in her notes on the video. It's called "Pray Again."