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Baptists respond to disasters with more than money, food

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists have responded dramatically to the needs of hurricane victims in the Caribbean and Middle America — giving not only money and goods, but themselves.
Across the country, Southern Baptist churches large and small collected money, food, clothing and medical supplies.
When International Mission Board missionaries requested 42 volunteer teams for relief projects in Middle America, Southern Baptists responded so readily that 38 of the requests were filled in four days.
IMB trustees, meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in connection with a largest-ever appointment service and the annual meeting of the Florida Baptist Convention, voted to earmark up to $l million for relief efforts in Middle America.
Even as this action was taken, disaster relief funds were pouring into the board’s headquarters in Richmond, Va. More than $220,000 came in within a week’s time. Iowa Baptists, for example, sent a $3,000 contribution, with the state convention’s executive director, O. Wyndell Jones remembering that “so many Baptists all over the world came to our aid during the 1993 Flood.”
In Anniston, Ala., Parker Memorial Baptist Church organized a collection for Honduras.
“The response has been amazing,” said Ann Priddy, one of the leaders of the effort. “We have people coming from everywhere.”
Mississippi Baptists shipped 270,000 pounds of food via a Standard Fruit Company cargo vessel, said Paul Harrell, director of the state convention’s Baptist men’s ministry. The ship was to reach Honduras on Thanksgiving Day, and six volunteers are scheduled to leave Dec. 2 to help with distribution.
In Germantown, Tenn., Acteens collected $11,000 toward the purchase of 1,000 mattresses requested by missionaries in the Dominican Republic. The Acteens arranged three displays of mattresses and dressed in flannel pajamas in the foyer of the church, taking up the donations in pillow slips.
Above each display, a sign asked, “What if you didn’t have a place to lay your head?”
In addition to the mattresses, the Germantown church is in the process of shipping 100,000 pounds of rice, 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of beans and 10,000 gallons of cooking oil to the Dominican Republic.
In addition, a 14-member team, led by pastor Sam Shaw, a former IMB missionary to the Dominican Republic, made a weeklong journey to the island to prayer walk and seek ways the church can continue to help both in relief and evangelism.
Frank Drinkard, a former staff member of the Germantown church, is now an IMB missionary in the Dominican Republic.
Previous contacts with Baptists in countries battered by hurricanes Georges and Mitch paved the way for relief efforts.

In September, Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., led a 55-member delegation to a Central American pastors’ conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
When news of the disaster in Honduras broke, IMB missionary Joyce Harms was in Memphis. She and her husband, David, serve in Honduras.
Joyce Harms relayed immediate needs to the church, which responded within three days with $20,000 and 35,000 pounds of food and medical supplies. Executives of Federal Express who are members of Bellevue arranged for a Boeing 727 to deliver the relief materials to Honduras.

Other Tennessee churches have joined with Bellevue in sending a Federal Express DC-10 to Honduras with clothing, food and medicine. Federal Express also is taking the food and mattresses gathered by the Germantown church to the Dominican Republic.
Texas Baptist Men delivered three water purifiers bought and shipped with IMB hunger funds, as well as generators and more than three tons of food and medicine, to Honduras.
The University of Mobile, which has had a branch in Managua, Nicaragua, is collecting money to purchase food, medicine and other supplies of the storm victims in Nicaragua.
David Lema, director of Hispanic ministries for the Miami (Fla.) Baptist Association, took a group from the association and Spanish-speaking health care providers to Honduras, where they evaluated how they could plug into Honduras’ great needs.

A pastor and two members of Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur, a Spanish-speaking Baptist church in San Francisco, were in El Salvador helping with a water purification project.
A team of Southern Baptist volunteer coordinators from Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina led by IMB volunteer missions coordinator Bill Cashion and the North American Mission Board’s Mickey Caison will make a 10-day assessment trip to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in December.

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  • Wally Poor