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Title: Y2K Could Be a Cloaked Blessing

Source: www.the700club.org, 7/26/99.

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Y2K Could Be a Cloaked Blessing

By Chris Mitchell
July 26, 1999

-- One of the most important questions concerning Y2K is preparation. What are communities and churches nationwide doing about Y2K? CBN News reporter Chris Mitchell looks into the status of both community and church preparation around the country.

The Arlington Institute has developed a game called Countdown to Y2K. It explores how communities nationwide can better cope with Y2K. The game, which can be replicated by any community, was hosted by Public Technologies Incorporated, the national technology organization for local governments in Washington, D.C. Groups representing cities, churches, local governments and Y2K organizations participated. They played imaginary roles, ranging from the local press, a pastor or the mayor.

David Gershon, founder and president of the Global Action Plan, says that a prepared community is an intelligent community. He believes community preparedness is an insurance policy every town and city should invest in.

"There's really no downside," says Gershon, "because whether or not Y2K becomes an issue of significance or a minor discomfort, one thing is for sure, that a prepared community can weather whatever storms there may be, natural disasters or otherwise."

Yet the status of community preparation nationwide is both encouraging and sobering. According to a survey by the National Association of Counties, 74 percent of counties do have a plan to address Y2K issues; but 58 percent have no contingency plans for possible Y2K failures. In light of these realities, Gershon believes the key element in any community's preparation for Y2K is faith-based organizations like the church.

"They're the backbone, because there is a strong social ethic. And so what I believe is that they've got two major roles," Gershon continues. "One is that they can be the core of the neighborhood volunteer base, where they can literally reach out to their neighbors in the spirit of cooperation. Secondly, they can build the food banks and the shelters and the fallback systems in case some people in the community, of which I suspect there will be many, have chosen not to prepare."

One Christian organization mobilizing churches to serve their community during Y2K is the Joseph Project 2000.

Kate Allen, executive director of the Joseph Project 2000, feels that if a they can motivate the Christian community and generate leadership through the churches, they might have an opportunity for harvest like never before.

This meeting brought together some of its retail directors from around the country. Roger Scarlett works with local government officials and a number of community organizations in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is the regional director for Joseph Project 2000.

"They've told us that they really appreciate our input as being a resource to reach the church community, because they see that the church will be a vital part of any contingencies that might be needed if Y2K turns out to be something more than just a speed bump."

The local Joseph Project 2000 chapter brings in groups like the Red Cross to address community and personal preparation for Y2K. Lisa Hardy, the chapter director, believes even a small group can have a big impact.

A small group or a small church can very effectively instruct people on how to prepare individually. And it has been done with essentially no budget by drawing from free resources such as the Red Cross, FEMA and other organizations.

Many officials in Washington stress the impact of Y2K is more local than national. Hardy agrees and says it's what people are most concerned about.

"They want to know if they will still have power on January 1st," says Hardy. " 'Will I have a school to send my child to in the second week of January? Will my husband have a job? Will my government check come in?' The local issues are what people are most concerned about."

Many churches around the country see Y2K as an opportunity to serve their community. One of those churches is just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, called Prayer & Praise Christian Fellowship. Reverend Larry Baker, the church's pastor, led his church in the past year to prepare to serve their community. They've planted a garden, dug a well, and expanded their food pantry.

"When we started hearing about Y2K last year, we thought it would be good as a church to do these things in order to be used of God to minister to the people in a time of crisis with these things that are the necessities of life. But also, we want to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Even if Y2K turns out not to be a problem and nothing happens, Baker feels they have an excellent mercy ministry in place with food that won't go to waste.

Dr. Betsy Neuenschwander, co-author of Crisis Evangelism: Preparing to be Salt and Light When the World Needs Us Most, believes Y2K can be a time for evangelism.

"We believe that the body of Christ owes it to the heart of God and owes it to unbelievers to be informed about issues, and then step up to the plate with faith and hope and compassion and love and ministry and be ready to give the bread of life while you're teaching somebody to make bread."

One national strategy many churches are adopting is called Lighthouses of Prayer, families and individuals dedicated to praying for and reaching out to their neighbors. At its conferences this year, Promise Keepers plans to challenge every man to make his home a lighthouse of prayer. And Promise Keeper founder Bill McCartney believes the Lighthouses of Prayer plan is the key solution for the church as we approach possible disruption during Y2K.

"Lighthouses of Prayer is the answer. It's the perfect ministry opportunity. Prepare now. Get resource stored away, be ready in case electricity's a problem, be ready in case bad water is a problem, be ready in case food is short, and be ready to reach out to the neighbors. What a wonderful opportunity as you give away a love with a heart of grace. That'll be irresistible."

Whether it's through local involvement, practical preparation or fervent prayer, many believe Y2K could be a unique opportunity for the church.

Alice Smith of U.S. Prayer Track says that this is not about survivalism; it's about evangelism, and that if we will turn outward and ask the Lord to give us the opportunity to win people to Christ, then we don't want to miss the opportunity.
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