By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — Whether it’s “The Big One” — the long-overdue and much-discussed Cascadia subduction zone earthquake — or some other major Northwest disaster, whenever it hits, people of faith need to be part of the response.
That is the thinking behind a special invitation for involvement to be emphasized during a Portland conference this fall.
“We believe passionately that this forum will save lives,” said Dan Terry, managing partner for Emergency Preparedness Leadership Forums, events held in several cities nationally, including at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 1 and 2. Terry spoke several weeks ago at a promotional luncheon there for the event and said from 300 to 500 faith leaders are expected among more than 2,000 attenders.
Terry and others behind the conference believe that churches, ministries and the larger faith community have a natural role to play in disaster response.
“If you look at the Bible, we’re called to be prepared for whatever comes,” said Eric Cummings, director of faith and community collaboration for the event. “It’s not just us, it’s our neighbors. If I have the ability to help meet immediate needs of neighbors when disaster hits, what better way to be a living example of the love of Christ?”
At the luncheon, the conference received strong endorsement from Larry Whittlesey, a longtime Portland area pastor who now wears two faith-motivated hats — as national director of the YMCA’s U.S. Mission Network and also as coordinator for the Luis Palau Association’s School Partnership Network.
“Disasters are going to happen, and the response of faith leaders is really important,” Whittlesey said. “We need to motivate our congregations to be the hands of feet of Christ when those moments come.”
With that in mind, there will be a special Faith Leadership Conference throughout Wednesday with speakers Jodie Chiricosta and H. Norman Wright. Chiricosta is vice president of Virginia-based Some-body Cares International, a nonprofit with expertise in disaster and crisis response. The author of more than 90 books, Wright is a grief and trauma therapist and noted seminary professor who was often featured on Focus on the Family broadcasts.
Among other speakers are Ken Leatherman, a business consultant; Jeff John-son of FirstNet (First Responders Network Au-thority); Scott Winegar, di-rector of the Homeland Security Education program at Concordia University of Portland and retired police officer; Daniel Olsen, a retired fire chief; Dixie Lynn Johnson, a therapist and founder of Hope for Heroes Project; and Mark Lanterman of Computer Forensic Services.
In addition to workshops and panels, there will be an exhibit area featuring a wide range of agencies oriented to crisis response.
Early admission of $99 runs through Sept. 30. From Oct. 1 to 28, admission is $149, and $199 after. For full details, phone 503-828-9779 or go to eplf.us