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Baptists swing into action after Taiwan’s worst quake

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BP)–Baptists and other Christian groups began ministering to survivors almost immediately after Taiwan’s worst recorded earthquake rocked the island Sept. 21.
The quake, which measured between 7.6 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, killed at least 1,600 people, with the toll expected to rise and more than 1,000 people still missing. It injured thousands and left an estimated 100,000 people homeless. Central Taiwan sustained heavy damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure, especially in the city of Taichung and in Nantou County — location of the quake’s epicenter about 90 miles south of Taipei, which also sustained damage.
Aid efforts by a Christian group called “Guardian Angel,” coordinated by a Baptist pastor, geared up in the hours after the quake, setting up a relief center near the site of a 12-story building that collapsed in Taipei.
“Their main focus has been to provide comfort and support to families of victims, have pure water on site for families and relief workers and visit the hospitals where victims were taken,” reported Southern Baptist missionary Hal Cunnyngham, crisis manager for International Mission Board personnel in Taiwan.
“At the hospitals they are ministering to families, taking them food, clothing and water, and providing a Christian presence. Twenty-five local Baptist seminary students are assisting with the hospital visits to minister to victims and their families.”
The IMB mission organization in Taiwan donated cash to help the group buy relief supplies and may request additional Southern Baptist aid funds for other efforts. Taipei Baptist pastor Yen Tsu Min coordinates “Guardian Angel.”
Medical facilities are “extremely stressed’ in central Taiwan, Cunnyngham said, and water supplies are feared contaminated.
“We’re checking with local contacts to see if there will be the need to offer [water purification] equipment in the next day or two,” Cunnyngham, said. “We also anticipate assisting various Christian groups in financing their relief efforts in addition to the assistance provided today in Taipei.”
U.S.-based Southern Baptist disaster relief specialists Bob Simpkins and Cameron Byler, who held disaster response training seminars in Taiwan just six months ago, are contacting officials in Taiwan to investigate other assistance.
Bringing Simpkins and Byler to Taiwan was “the Lord’s guidance, we see clearly now,” said missionary Thad Puckett in Taipei. “[They did] training for Christian groups in how to respond to just this type of disaster. They also held mock earthquake drills with the very governmental agencies now having to coordinate the relief efforts. God is amazing in providing for the needs of this island.”
All of the more than 70 Southern Baptist missionaries and their families in Taiwan were confirmed to be safe. Several families who live in high-rise apartments in the quake zone were badly shaken, however, and planned to stay with other families for a few days.
“We’re OK,” Puckett said. “It was one heck of a big ride, though — big, strong, long and loud. It went on and on. [It was] difficult to walk at first. Two very big aftershocks came within 20 minutes, which let us know this one wasn’t like the other earthquakes we had been through here in Taiwan. There have been 1,000 aftershocks since then, with about 10 over 5.0 on Richter scale.
“Pray especially for the people of Taiwan. There is a very somber mood here today — almost palpable. People are numbed by the experience of last night and by the carnage they have seen in person or on the television. Pray for the 97 percent of the people of Taiwan that don’t know Christ as their Savior. And especially pray for believers here to be ‘doers of the word’ during these difficult days.”
Damage to Southern Baptist mission properties in Taiwan was mostly cosmetic, according to initial reports. A thorough evaluation of mission-owned buildings will take place soon.
Officials warned of the likelihood of another major earthquake within seven days.
Contributions designated for Taiwan relief efforts may be sent to Southern Baptist Hunger and Relief, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

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  • Erich Bridges