Safety First When Crisis Strikes

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Six hours before they left for Haiti to help build a ministry center, a service group from First Christian Reformed Church in Denver got a firsthand look at how the denominational crisis-management policy works.

The chief purpose of the policy is to help with decision making regarding missionary staff in times of crisis, according to Michael Bruinooge. He was among those responsible for planning and implementing the policy, which was adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) in 2004.

In this case, political unrest and an increase in hostage-taking in Haiti led to the cancellation of the service group’s trip on May 27 (see below).

The policy helps determine whether denominational personnel should be evacuated in a political crisis, a hostage-taking scenario, an act of terror, or other situations that might endanger the lives of those working in foreign countries. Decision makers include field staff and a crisis management team at the denominational headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Everyone affiliated in any way with the CRCNA is required to comply with this policy,” said Executive Director Peter Borgdorff.

Although Borgdorff admits that the policy does not guarantee the safety of overseas personnel, it ensures that emergency plans are in place. “We network with the U.S. State Department and with Crisis Consulting Services, experts in the field of emergency preparedness,” he said.

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee director Andrew Ryskamp said the policy has raised awareness of the dangers inherent in today’s political climate. “It assures volunteers that CRWRC has taken all measures to ensure their safety,” said Ryskamp. “In today’s world we need the policy to be as comprehensive as possible.”

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