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Today in the Mission Yearbook

The intersections of disaster response, self-development and hunger alleviation


The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, whose collaborative work touches all three, is a guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

June 11, 2024

Photo by Yosh Ginsu via Unsplash

“Between 2 Pulpits” hosts the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder called on the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus to wrap up their One Great Hour of Sharing podcast series by highlighting and illustrating the intersections of disaster assistance, ending hunger and the self-development of people.

Those ministry areas — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People — are supported by gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

Kraus, who formerly directed PDA, is now director of Humanitarian and Global Ecumenical Engagement, which gives her a bird’s-eye view of how the work of the three ministry areas relate to one another. In addition to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the three programs supported by OGHS “are in a shared collaborative portfolio,” she told Wilkinson and Snyder during the 38-minute podcast, which can be heard here. “We do better work when we’re together with the church, and we do much better work when we’re seeing how disaster is impacted by endemic poverty, and how tending to the building of relationships like SDOP does helps us do better work representing people who are vulnerable after a disaster, or the people who need to be working for food security in the U.S. or overseas.”

Globally, Kraus works with partners of all three programs “and ecumenical partners and long-term civil society partners who do disaster and development work, work with gender equity and other kinds of pieces of work that the Presbyterian Church and many other faith partners care about in the world.”

Before Kraus began leading PDA, she served churches in upstate New York and Miami, during which she was a member of PDA’s National Response Team. She was pastoring in Miami in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana. “I had literally no knowledge of disaster work, but I was pastoring a congregation that had been 33% displaced by this hurricane,” she said. More than three years into the recovery work, “I came up for air and I realized the on-the-job training had broadened my sense of vocation. The work the church does after a disaster is different from the work the Red Cross or [Federal Emergency Management Agency] does. We’re not only trying to help put people’s lives back together, but we’re also bearing witness to the fact that you can’t go back to the way you were.”

Kraus said that following a disaster, faith communities “can bear witness to the power of divine presence and the power of community helping to rebuild, and perhaps uncover things that could be better or different. That’s the vocation I was awakened to.”

There’s a “deep instinct in our churches and among people of faith to help when something terrible happens, or to help when people are unhoused or without adequate resources,” Kraus said. But people of faith who come from mainstream culture often “realize when we reach out to help, sometimes it’s not as much a relationship as it is charity. Charity is not a terrible thing,” she said, “but what I’ve learned is how much more respectful it is … if we can come to that in an accompaniment way, as partners rather than someone with money giving to someone who does not.”

Exploring the ways that climate change and militarism, for example, affect poverty has informed PDA’s work with partners, especially in war zones like Ukraine and Gaza. “We have been able to reach out to partners with whom we have been able to walk for many years to help them have the means to survive and support whoever they can reach and get to while the war goes on,” she said.

During January’s Matthew 25 Summit, Kraus led a workshop on maintaining resilience during hard times. She used a passage from the Talmud that she quoted for Wilkinson and Snyder: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

“That’s a pretty good mic drop quotation, Laurie,” Wilkinson said. “I’m inspired, and I hope the listeners are inspired, by the forward-thinking vision of this work.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’ podcast

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
So Jung Kim, Associate, Theology, Theology & Worship, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Shawn Kang, Associate, Central & West Regions, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

Thank you, God, for the depth of your love for your children, love that challenges us to use all that you have given so freely. Open our eyes to see the rich possibilities before us. Amen.