Disasters affect people, families, and communities physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Youth are also impacted by disaster, and its effects on them can lead to problems for both the youth and their families. Common reactions to disaster among youth of all ages include:

  1. Fear of future disasters
  2. Regressive behavior
  3. Loss of interest in school
  4. Sleep disturbances and nightmares

Other reactions vary by age.

Dr. Zotti and Mr. Shope collaborated with two other authors to create two universal programs that address common reactions to disaster among youth. Both programs are available to order from http://resources.elca.org/Products-Disaster_Response.html

Dr. Zotti and Mr. Shope are available to train trainers and staff for these programs. Call Hal Shope at (404) 680-6860 to set up trainings. There may be a charge of up to $300 for a half day training.


God’s Can Do Kids! is a four session program designed for children aged 5-13 or kindergarten through eighth grade. Its purposes are to help youth affected by disaster in:

    • Dealing with fears
    • Experiencing relief from stress
    • Connecting with God

God’s Can Do Kids is a day program designed to begin on a Friday afternoon and end on a Sunday afternoon.

Program directors who have used this program report that the materials were very helpful because they described clear procedures for carrying out the program. One program director said, "The program is excellent and I look forward to using it more frequently in the future."

Some testimonies from youth who attended God’s Can Do Kids!

An African-American male youth age 10 remembers being in his room sleeping and felt the house shaking from the winds and the back door blowing open and shut. The lights were flickering and the foundation of the house shook loose. Everyone in the house went into one room as the winds shook the house. He remembers everyone was screaming and calling for Mommy and God’s help to save them. . . . "I am still afraid when it rains hard and the winds blow. Thank you for the sessions with other children who were also liviing in the community and be able to hear each of our stories."

An African-American male youth age 12 remembers the strong heavy winds shaking their apartment and heavy rains coming in the house from the windows and roof that tore away the top. "I was so afraid that we were going to die and I prayed to God to please take care of us. . . . We had helpers to come and help repair, clean up the trees and tree limbs, remove trash out of houses and apartments and the park. There was much trees pulled up out of the ground. Some of my friends had to move away to other apartments or hotels until their places were ready for them again. When we had the sessions it was good to talk with other children in my community I did not know who experienced the same thing I did in being afraid. Thank you for helping us."

An African-American male youth age 7 said, "I was afraid for myself and my family when it felt like somebody just took and picked up our house and shook it loose with everything falling everywhere, and the lights going on and off until they just went off. I heard my mother calling for me to see where I was and I was calling for her at the same time. We all stayed in the same room every night after the tornado. We cleaned up and people came by to help us to clean up the trees and trash. I am thankful we did not die, and God saved us to live with each other. Thank you for helping us see God’s helpers."

An African-American male youth age 13 said, "I remember being scared to death because I thought I was going to die when the roof came off the neighbors house and hit ours. It sounded like the earth had blew up shaken the foundation of our house. We all gathered together in a closet until it was over. When we came out all the furniture was thrown around and windows were broken. We came outside to see everyone on our block checking on each other. . . . I went to my friends house to see if he was okay and he was crying because he was scared and I found myself crying with him and he were holding each other. We had to relocate for a few weeks until our place was fixed up and we received furniture, since our furniture had water damage. What I know is God is powerful, and He saved us from dying as a result of a disaster and He let us know not to forget His Presence and remember to pray for ourselves and family and community. Thank you."


Gearing Up—Renew U program is an all day retreat designed for youth ages 14-18 or grades nine through twelve. Its purposes are to assist youth to face life’s hardships by:


  • Dealing with fears
  • Experiencing relief from stress
  • Connecting with God
  • Building practical skills

Program directors stated that this program is very easy to use and has been very successful in meeting the needs of youth affected by disaster in their communities. They also told us, "The program was well planned, demonstrated, and designed to build awareness, character and a strong will. 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'"

Testimony from Gearing Up—Renew U program

"Well, the changes I have observed in one child's life since the 'Renew U' program was positive. The child was never particularly bad, but you know how children are. They don't particularly obey everything you say, but who does? So the kid was wild, jumps around and didn't really like attending church. Especially since he believes it is boring and a waste of good time.

So since the 'Renew U' Program the young man has been excited to come to church every Sunday. He obeys his parents at church. As far as I'm concerned. And he listens when the preacher preaches and talks about [it] throughout the week. His enthusiasm for the Lord makes me want to know God better. And helps me, myself realize that it's always good to thirst after the Lord."