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Baptists ministering to homeless, hungry in aftermath of El Salvador earthquake

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (BP)–Southern Baptist missionaries and their Christian co-workers moved quickly to minister to human needs following a 7.6-magnitude earthquake Jan. 13 in El Salvador.

Using Southern Baptist emergency funds, missionary Mark Grumbles and a layman in San Salvador began delivering tarpaulins to families left without shelter after the quake, which killed at least 400 people and left more than 1,300 homeless.

A massive mudslide engulfed as many as 500 middle-class homes in the Santa Tecla suburb of the capital, San Salvador, when the quake hit at 11:35 a.m. Saturday. Survivors in neighboring towns were left without food and water after roads were blocked or swept away by landslides.

The quake was centered off the Pacific coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt across El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras and as far north as Mexico City.

Up to 500 aftershocks, some of them powerful, hampered the efforts of hundreds of emergency workers and volunteers.

“The earthquake lasted 50 seconds. The house was shaking and things were falling out of the cabinets and off the shelves,” missionary Pam Grumbles reported Sunday evening. “We were literally afraid the house would fall.”

Foreign aid began flowing immediately from the United States, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain and Venezuela, and relief experts felt most people’s immediate needs for food and water would be met, according to news reports.

Southern Baptists will send a four-person evaluation team into the country Jan. 22, said Jim Brown, human needs consultant for the International Mission Board. The team expects to bring back recommendations for long-term projects like rebuilding church buildings and cleaning up homes and neighborhoods.

The $5,000 in emergency funds sent immediately to missionaries would soon be exhausted, Brown said. Requests for further assistance are expected.

Baptist churches in the towns of Santiago de Maria and Berlin had opened their kitchens to feed neighbors who needed help, Brown said.

Emphasizing the need for prayer, Pam Grambles stated, “Continue to pray as we evaluate how to participate in relief efforts and minister to human and spiritual needs.”

Specific ways Southern Baptist volunteers may be able to help will be outlined after the evaluation team returns to the United States Jan. 25, Brown added.

Contributions toward the relief efforts can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief Fund – El Salvador Earthquake, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

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