ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A $2 million challenge for donations to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has been met and will result in an additional $2 million grant to assist the North American Mission Board in its comprehensive Gulf Coast hurricane relief ministries.
Attainment of the milestone was announced Oct. 5 by Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, NAMB’s president, to the entity’s board of trustees.
The trustees also approved 50 new missionary candidates and 34 chaplains; passed a 2006 operating budget of $124 million; and heard reports on Southern Baptists’ extensive response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Christian philanthropists Lynn and Foster Friess issued the $2 million challenge in September through NAMB, which coordinates Southern Baptists’ national network of 30,000 trained disaster volunteers.
“When Katrina hit, Foster called me and said, ‘I’ve been researching disaster relief agencies and have found that nobody does it like Southern Baptists,’” Reccord told the trustees. “His and Lynn’s challenge has now resulted in over $4 million to Southern Baptist relief efforts –- by far the greatest gift ever given to this agency and its ministries. We are humbled and challenged by their generosity.”
Trustees devoted much of the meeting to receiving reports on Southern Baptists’ largest-ever disaster relief response, which has involved thousands of volunteers from hundreds of churches in nearly every state Baptist convention.
Reccord, who has made several trips to the affected areas to meet with pastors, church members, associational leaders and state convention officials in order to understand the immediate and long-term needs, recounted several stories of sacrificial service by SBC volunteers.
“I saw one very hot, tired brother in a trademark yellow shirt carrying a chainsaw, and I asked him, ‘How are you?’” Reccord recounted. “He began to weep and said, ‘I can’t do much. I can’t preach. I can’t teach. But I can cut down trees and if that brings someone closer to Christ, I’ll do it.”
Reccord also told about a Southern Baptist couple from Biloxi, Miss., who had been serving food for 17 days when he stopped to ask how they were getting along.
“They said they were getting ready to go home and deal with trees down and damage at their own house, but that they’d be back in a couple of days. And others just like them are out there by the thousands, ministering and witnessing to the millions who are in need.”
Two NAMB trustees from the states most affected by the hurricanes also reported on their experiences. Reva Daniel from Clinton, Miss., said she watched “with a full heart as the Southern Baptist trucks and vans poured into our state.”
“Thank you for what you are doing. Thank you for NAMB. Thank you for the programs you’ve put in place to help us,” she said. “Mississippi has sent many missionaries across the country and around the world, but we’re not used to being the recipient of this kind of ministry. More people are more open to the Gospel than ever before, so we thank you.”
Fred Lowery, NAMB trustee from Louisiana and pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, told trustees how his church ministered to evacuees from the Gulf Coast.
“They came to us by the thousands, literally, and our church members became the first responders,” he said. “They were getting off of buses cold, wet and afraid, but there was nobody to help them except the church of Jesus Christ.”
First Baptist provided food, clothing, cots, bedding, and even turned its chapel into a distribution center. “Our staff did nothing else for days, weeks. Katrina was the other woman in my life during that time,” he joked.
And, meeting those needs brought opportunities for even more ministry. “City officials were calling asking for help, saying, ‘You’re the only ones I know who can get this done or meet that need,’” Lowery said.
The local fire department conducted a roadblock fund drive and gave the proceeds to First Baptist because, they said, “You’re the ones on the front line.”
In his report to the board, Reccord challenged the trustees to lead their church to register for NAMB’s “Adopt a Church” initiative. He used his own adoption as an analogy.
“When I was just a little guy, when nobody wanted me, a loving Christian man and woman had the courage to adopt me and care for me,” Reccord said. “They gave me a chance I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And now, Southern Baptists have a chance to help churches, pastors, church staff members in the same way. Whatever it takes, I’m begging you to adopt one of these devastated churches.”
Reccord also told the trustees that NAMB has faced challenges in meeting housing needs for hurricane evacuees because government agencies have been unable to supply NAMB with names of those needing housing.
“We have over a thousand individuals and churches who are registered for ‘Houses of Hope,’ but we have very few evacuee names to share with them at this time,” Reccord said. “We appreciate the government’s concern for the evacuees but [we] are developing other ways to meet the needs of these people during this critical time.”
Reccord also previewed a new four-minute disaster relief video that emphasizes the role the Cooperative Program plays in making Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministries possible.
“These services — touching tens of thousands of lives — would not be possible without the foundational support of the Cooperative Program,” he said. “This video will show church members that the only way Southern Baptists are the first ones on the scene is because of faithful, consistent support of CP which makes it all possible.”
The video will be available for free download at www.NAMB.net during the week of Oct. 10.
In other business, NAMB trustees:
— received a report concerning NAMB’s “See Who Cares” national media campaign to be launched in January. Announced at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting this past summer, the campaign — consisting of television and radio commercials, print and outdoor advertising — will address eight challenges people face, including financial pressures, unwanted pregnancies and addictions. The campaign materials will be made available free of charge to churches, associations and state conventions.
— welcomed two new leadership staff to the evangelism group: Terry Fields as executive director of church evangelism and Gary Hollingsworth as executive director of evangelism resources. Fields is a native of Georgia who has served as senior pastor of Liberty Heights Baptist Church near Cincinnati, Ohio, for nearly 10 years. Hollingsworth, an Alabama native, is presently pastor of First Baptist Church in Trussville, and has served as a NAMB trustee since 2002.