My sister’s home in Houston was seriously flooded during Hurricane Harvey. She and her family are fine, but in shock! They lost both cars, and his business is shut down until they can recover. What should they do now? Any advice?
Harvey and Irma
Dear Harvey and Irma,
I am so sorry to learn of the losses suffered by your sister and her family. We have witnessed so many lives lost or seriously disrupted by the onslaught of hurricanes, tropical storms and fires in the United States in the past sixty days, not to mention the devastating earthquakes in Mexico. This is a good question that I have answered privately for a few friends and am happy to share my response more broadly.
My parents were impacted with property damage by one of the most devastating tornadoes in American history that hit Wichita Falls, Texas in 1979. I understand how overwhelming these events can be!
In the middle of a crisis, people usually can’t think logically. But, there are several important things you need to do when disaster strikes. Your sister has probably already done a number of these steps but hopefully they will help guide her. It is also good for anyone to keep this information where you can find it in a hurry if a natural disaster strikes. We compiled all these points in a checklist to make it simple.
Immediately contact your family and network of close friends. Provide your location, condition, and how they can stay in contact with you. Social media, if available, can be beneficial. Ask for prayer, being honest about your needs and the financial implications. Some may be willing and able to help. Others may offer direction or connect you with people who can assist you.
As soon as possible, contact your church family and give them pertinent information. They will often be the first to mobilize local assistance. Tell them your needs and be willing to accept help. If the disaster is widespread in your community, find ways you can serve others. The Bible tells us that the Body is made up of many parts and each of us has a purpose. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) Use your gifts and talents to sacrificially support, serve and comfort one another.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is a government agency that supports citizens and first responders during times of emergency. You can find up-to-date resources and information on their website.
Notify your primary insurer(s) and ask about your coverage. Find out what assistance is available, if any, and inform them of your circumstance. Take pictures of the damage you or your property has sustained during the disaster.
You’ll need to reset your budget for the immediate short-term and focus on the essentials while you regroup. This budget is based on the same biblical principles as your normal one, but with key adjustments since your income may be temporarily disrupted. Do not fear or panic. Pray, remain calm and focus on basic necessities. Remember, God is the owner and provider of all things. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1 NIV). He will faithfully carry you through this crisis.
Often employers have plans for assistance or provisions for employees affected by disasters. Make your needs known and ask your employer to work with you while you get your life back to normal. Remain in contact. If self-employed or running your own business, communicate with your key customers and staff. Share plans you’re making to take care of your accounts.
Once you have all the information from relief organizations and your insurance company, make a plan for your future. How has your job or income been affected? Can you recover your losses? Are you going to rebuild? What are your short-term and long-term plans?
The Crown Money Map may be a helpful guide as you contemplate your future financial plans. Carefully make decisions. Be slow to make major financial changes while in shock or grief. Recruit a trusted friend or family member to help. Keep your guard up. Scammers, criminals and con artists prey on those most vulnerable or desperate. Be extra careful when hiring any labor, especially when rebuilding your home. Find helpful tips for hiring a reputable contractor here.
If your job or business is interrupted and extra income becomes necessary, consider a part time job to carry you through. Companies like Uber, Lyft or Upwork offer opportunities for part time, contract work. Many jobs arise during the cleanup and rebuilding following a disaster. It’s possible that an economic boom will occur in the area as relief funds pour in. Consider hiring out as a contractor via websites like TaskRabbit or Handy. Home-based businesses like making meals for workers and volunteers or childcare for families rebuilding their homes are possible ideas.
Job lost his business, his servants, his assets, his children and his health – one right after the other! Amidst the shock, horror and grief he proclaimed:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21 NIV)
Cast your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you. He will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t lose faith. He can deliver you safely through your darkest valleys.
Feel free to refer your sister and her family to Crown for financial coaching during this team. We have trained volunteers that would be very willing to help them work through the myriad of financial decisions ahead.
We have also compiled all these important steps in a checklist. Download it, print it, and keep it in a safe place. Feel free to share it with others and those trying to recover from these disasters around the world.
Originally published on Christian Post, September 29, 2017
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