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Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is recruiting National Response Team members to help communities following disasters

Register now for the online April 1 recruiting event

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE ­­— Lisa Baker has a promise for those pondering the idea of becoming a member of the National Response Team (NRT) of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

“It might seem daunting, but the reality is, you’ll get more than you give in this ministry,” said Baker, who’s part of the team. “Your heart becomes larger with every deployment.”

Lisa Baker, at right, is a member of the PDA National Response Team. (Photo by Rich Copley)

If you’ve ever considered joining the team, which the Rev. Nell Herring describes as the “boots on the ground” when disaster strikes, you may be interested in an upcoming information session, which will be recorded for later viewing.

PDA will hold the recruitment event at 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, April 1, via Zoom to help prospective members decide whether to accept the calling to serve.

“As Christians, we are called to extend Christ’s love to our neighbors and the NRT serves as a way to do so on behalf of the national church,” said Herring, mission specialist for Volunteer Ministries.

Participants in the free information session will learn:

  • How the NRT assists in PDA’s domestic disaster response efforts
  • A brief history of how the NRT got started
  • What to expect during the discernment and onboarding process
  • What PDA expects of NRT members
  • Logistical information about volunteer service

“We are eager to accept applications from anyone who is interested in applying for the National Response Team,” Herring said. “In this discernment class, we are particularly interested in young to middle-aged adults and people who have multiple language proficiencies.”

Attracting a diverse pool of volunteers is important because PDA serves many different communities and people from different places and different cultures can help to understand and meet the needs of those in crisis, said the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, PDA’s director.

Coming alongside communities after disaster is a privilege, Herring said.

“Working collaboratively with presbyteries, local leaders, and other organizations helps the NRT, and therefore PDA, to equip individuals to be agents of recovery in their communities,” Herring said. “Team members work in partnership with presbyteries and synods (to) assess the impact of disasters (natural and human-caused) on churches and the larger community, assist in connecting presbyteries and synods and other partner organizations to recovery resources, and work to support and provide short- and long-term recovery.”

The Rev. Nell Herring, PDA mission specialist for Volunteer Ministries, and National Response Team member Joan Otto at First Presbyterian Church of Calvert City, Kentucky. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Volunteers who currently serve on the team include “retired folks, clergy, mental health professionals, facilities experts, teachers, mid-council leaders, pastors, disaster survivors, elders, camp professionals, a school bus driver, stay-at-home parents, chaplains, medical professionals, and even an interior designer,” Herring said, adding, “PDA is looking to bring in a new class of volunteers with an even broader range of spiritual gifts, skill sets, and experiences to better meet the needs we encounter in disaster recovery and to better minister to communities in crisis.”

The Rev. Kristin Hutson, an NRT member, is looking forward to PDA expanding and broadening the types of voices “that will help inform how we do our work. … I’m really excited about who might be called to do this ministry in the future.”

The spring application deadline is May 1, and Herring noted that this will be the first new discernment class to be assembled since before the Covid pandemic.

“We plan to bring in a discernment class this year and we will bring in another in 2025 as well,” and there will be additional opportunities after that, she said. “Together, the applicant and PDA do the work of mutual discernment to identify who God is calling to take part in this hard and holy ministry.”

NRT members are volunteers. However, “as a member of the NRT, all volunteer expenses, including travel, hotel accommodations, food and materials are reimbursed by PDA,” Herring said. “If waiting on reimbursement is a barrier for volunteer service, PDA staff have developed alternative procedures to help make volunteer service accessible to all.”

To RSVP, go here. All who RSVP will receive a link to the recording. Direct questions to (502) 938-9015 or

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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