Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE (BP) – While the damage caused by natural disasters and the devastation of the war in Ukraine continue to make headlines, giving to the Cooperative Program is continuing to fund the compassion ministry of Send Relief around the world.
Send Relief is the Southern Baptist compassion ministry that is a joint effort between the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board focused on providing practical and spiritual aid to those in need.
Focus areas of Send Relief include responding to crises, protecting children and families, caring for refugees, fighting human trafficking and strengthening communities.
Jason Cox, vice president of international ministry for Send Relief, told Baptist Press that none of these avenues of ministry, including those happening overseas, would be possible without the support of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.
“The importance of the Cooperative Program to the international work of Send Relief is best quantified in the people the CP supports and the missionary presence it enables around the world,” Cox said in comments to Baptist Press.
“What excites me most about Send Relief today are reports of lives changed for eternity through our projects. Everything we do is modeled after the life and ministry of Christ and in obedience to His commands,” Cox said.
“Everything we do is Gospel-focused. The works of compassion that we facilitate give expression to the Gospel through word and deed. Hundreds of thousands of people don’t just see the gospel but hear the gospel through Send Relief projects every year,” said Cox.
He says this year more than a thousand people have responded to the Gospel through Send Relief’s efforts related to the war in Ukraine.
Send Relief overseas personnel organizing aid projects are all IMB missionaries, according to Cox.
“IMB missionary presence is critical to Send Relief because the vast majority of the compassion ministry projects we facilitate are through IMB missionaries,” Cox said. “We rely directly on the generous giving of Southern Baptists through the CP to keep our Send Relief team on the field.”
According to Cox, Send Relief currently has 354 active compassion ministry projects going on around the world, which support the work of IMB missionaries and their partners.
“Because Send Relief supports the work of IMB missionary teams and their local partners, the relief and development projects we facilitate are designed to enhance and expand those teams’ field strategies to engage in the missionary task. This simply would not be possible without the support provided through the CP.”
He said two of the biggest areas Send Relief has been able to provide aid in the last few years are related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Ironically, the unique challenges of the pandemic resulted in an increase in Send Relief’s work internationally.
“The work of Send Relief is typically most visible when we are responding to crisis, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented us with a crisis unlike we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime,” Cox said.
“In a world of lockdowns and social distancing, and throughout repeated disruptions experienced by our ministry partners on the field, the work of Send Relief actually expanded and accelerated during the pandemic. The number of Send Relief international projects increased by 75 percent from 2019 to 2020.
“Since the pandemic began, Send Relief has facilitated 597 Covid relief projects impacting over 1.7 million people. Most importantly, more than 14,000 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministries and strategies directly supported by these relief projects.”
Regarding the crisis in Ukraine, Send Relief has been “actively engaged,” since it began, providing aid to people in desperate need.
There have been 72 different relief projects related to the war. Many of them have taken place outside of Ukraine.
“These projects are addressing the most critical needs of those affected and displaced by the war: transportation costs for evacuating people; sheltering refugees and internally displaced peoples and providing food, clothing, medicine, and trauma counseling,” Cox said.
“Some projects are addressing other needs like longer-term housing for refugees in surrounding countries, mobile kitchens, summer camps for refugee children, and crisis response training for local pastors and volunteers.
“Most of these projects are ongoing, but we’ve received reports from 27 completed projects. Those 27 projects have impacted over 600,000 people and resulted in over 1,100 people coming to faith in Christ.”
He explained these projects were made possible by the IMB presence that already existed in Eastern Europe, and the generosity of Southern Baptists donating both directly to Send Relief and to the Cooperative Program.
Cox said Send Relief is a wonderful example of Southern Baptists uniting to fulfill the Great Commission.
“I see the phrase ‘better together’ used a lot these days, and Send Relief is proving this as a cooperative ministry between IMB and NAMB,” Cox said.
“We believe that we represent and mobilize Southern Baptists better, and ultimately have a greater impact, by providing one channel for engaging in compassion ministry worldwide.
“The beauty of the Cooperative Program is that every Southern Baptist, regardless of their age or their income, can contribute to the Revelation 7:9 vision of ‘a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’”