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‘Coats for Christmas’ drive targets North Korean children

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–North Korean officials have asked Southern Baptists to supply 180,000 coats by Christmas Day to protect the country’s children from the upcoming bitter winter.
Without the coats, the officials fear children will freeze to death in several North Korean provinces. Flooding in recent years ravaged homes and devastated farmland, triggering a deep food shortage that left hundreds of thousands of people teetering at the brink of starvation and sending the country into an economic tailspin.
In a “Coats for Christmas” drive, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board aims by Dec. 15 to receive the new or used coats in very good condition, which volunteers will box to be sent to the beleaguered country. The drive is a joint project of the IMB, Woman’s Missionary Union and the North American Mission Board.
Ironically, leaders in the officially atheistic country asked for 102,000 coats by Dec. 25 and the rest in January.
“It is phenomenal the way God has begun to crack open a door for ministry and presence in North Korea,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin. “This is primarily due to the compassionate response of Southern Baptists over the last couple of years in providing food and relief supplies.”
Mickey Caison, disaster relief director for the North American Mission Board, contacted leaders of NAMB’s network of 15,000 volunteers trained in disaster response on Nov. 25. “We believe it’s an invitation from God to join what he’s doing in North Korea,” Caison said. “We continue to see the door of opportunity open wider for Southern Baptists to demonstrate God’s love in North Korea.”
The project is timely for WMU members, who have just completed a year’s emphasis on child advocacy, said Trudy Johnson, special projects manager for WMU. “I believe we are primed to respond to the plight of these children,” she said. “We count it a privilege to mobilize our members to do missions by responding to this critical need.”
Since January 1996, Southern Baptists have given about $1.5 million for hunger relief to North Korea through the International Mission Board and other cooperating agencies.
Rankin traveled to North Korea last month with a delegation of Southern Baptists. “I was deeply touched by the needs there,” he said. “There is no question but that this opportunity to minister to the children of North Korea will save many lives and has been set up by the providence of God.”
The request for coats came through John LaNoue, director of adult ministries for Texas Baptist Men, who met with International Mission Board leaders at the board’s offices in Richmond, Va., Nov. 21. LaNoue spent the past three months traveling throughout North Korea in a joint project between the IMB and Texas Baptist Men.
LaNoue said officials also told him massive amounts of food need to be received from outside the country by March or great numbers of North Koreans will die. “They want Southern Baptists to help them,” he said. “They are hungry.” Officials expect a food shortfall of as much as 1.8 million tons by midwinter, he added.
Flooding in recent years swept topsoil off the land and left mounds of sand in its place. Much of the nation’s fertile land has become useless. A woman in one area told LaNoue, “We don’t know when food will ever come again.”
LaNoue said he saw God open doors in North Korea that no man could have moved. He said he often initially experienced hostility from local officials, then watched as barriers fell and they opened up to him and shared their needs.
During his visit, LaNoue was able to arrange for the International Mission Board and Texas Baptist Men to supply about $60,000 worth of salt to minimize losses from a recent typhoon that dumped muck on evaporating beds of sea salt. “Your God moves fast,” an official told him. “He must be a mighty God.”
Those interested in sending coats should address them to Coats for Christmas, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, Va. 23230. Persons who would like more information or who have business contacts and could arrange for volume donations from manufacturers or stores should contact the International Mission Board’s human needs office at 1-800-866-3621 (menu item 6) by phone or [email protected] by Internet.

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  • Marty Croll