CHIANGMAI, Thailand (BP)–Imagine the population of Gainesville, Fla., wiped out in a few short minutes. Or perhaps Green Bay, Wis. Or Norman, Okla.
All of those cities have approximately 100,000 residents — the number of people who were killed in the tsunami and earthquake that hit the coast of southern Asia Dec. 26.
And that death toll — at 115,000 as of Dec. 30 — is still rising.
Southern Baptist workers in the area are beginning relief efforts — and are asking for prayer and financial help.
“The thing that tugs at my heart is, ‘How many of those who died did so without knowing Jesus as their Savior?'” one worker in south Asia, whose name is withheld for security reasons, wrote in an e-mail. “Probably many more than those who died knowing their salvation was secure.”
Southern Baptist workers who have served in southern Asia for years say the disaster has put the region on the minds of people worldwide. And they’re asking not to be forgotten.
“The earthquake and tsunamis of 2004 have put South Asian countries in the forefront of global attention,” the worker wrote. “Please keep the needs of the people of South Asia in the forefront of your prayers every day. The newscasts will quickly switch to other stories, but the needs of the victims will not be met overnight. Let’s not forget them!”
The disaster has provided an opening for the Gospel, the worker stressed.
“It’s one thing to grieve for the lost dead,” the worker wrote. “What are you going to do for the lost who are still living? Pray. Give. Go.”
Southern Baptists and other Christians can help by sending financial gifts for aid through the IMB disaster relief fund. Gifts can be sent, designated “Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief,” to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, Va., 23230 (to give online, go to the International Mission Board’s website, www.imb.org, and click on “Give Now” in the box highlighting the tsunami story). All funds given will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.
In the e-mail the south Asian worker listed several specific prayer requests:
— “Please pray that God will give consolation and peace to all those who have lost their loved ones. I was listening to a mother’s cry who said that the huge wave snatched her two sons from her hand and threw her onto a tree. She saw her sons die in front of her eyes. Please pray that God will have mercy on these people. Please pray for those who are missing their loved ones and are not able to find their whereabouts. Please pray for all who lost their belongings and are on the street. Please pray for their protection and provision of the necessary needs.
— “Pray for Christ to be seen through those sharing His love. As one pastor in Sri Lanka shared with an IMB representative, ‘We do not have time to share Christ; things are so hectic we are only able to show Christ.’ This pastor has people sleeping everywhere in his home, church, and Sunday School hall. They are trying to provide food, blankets, clothes, etc.
— “A Great Commission Christian in Sri Lanka shared, ‘The devastation is immense but so good to see people pull together. (Buddhist) monks smiling and thanking us for helping, etc. May a great spiritual impact be made as we (Christians) ‘let our light so shine before men … that they will glorify our Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:16 NIV).
— “As people from all walks of life come together in makeshift shelters there are many difficulties to overcome. While the survivors are dealing with the loss of loved ones and everything they own, they must also deal with personal differences and conflicts.
“For an example, in the same shelter there may be Sri Lankan fishermen (very tough, rough men) who may seem rude in comparison with Sri Lankan businessmen used to more refined social customs. Pray for those offering ministry to have patience and to be peacemakers when tempers flare and cultures clash. Pray for those receiving ministry to be appreciative of the help, and to be patient with those around them. Pray that tensions will dissolve in the light of the greater need for understanding and mercy.
— “Pray for rescue workers who are putting in long hours trying to find survivors and dispose of bodies. Pray that they would not get discouraged, but would hold onto hope that ‘the next one’ might be alive.
— “Pray that people around the world will help provide the resources needed, not only for short-term relief efforts, but also for long-term reconstruction of villages, homes, hospitals, schools, etc.
— “Pray that government officials will accept offered help. Pray against the temptation of corruption in the presence of money and resources.
— “One of the greatest physical needs will be for clean drinking water — both immediately and long-term. Pray that clean water will be available, and that Living Water will be available for the great spiritual needs.
— “Pray that those who survived might understand the words of Jonah and in their distress, call on the Lord.
“‘In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, `I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. ‘When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.’ ” (Jonah 2:2-7 NIV).
— “Pray that those who survived might also cry out like the Psalmist: ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.’ (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).”
Southern Baptists and other Christians can help by sending financial gifts for aid through the IMB disaster relief fund. Send gifts designated “Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief” to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, Va., 23230 (to give online, go to the International Mission Board’s website, www.imb.org, and click on “Give Now” in the box highlighting the tsunami story). All funds given will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.