NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The detention of ten Baptists in Haiti has become an overnight international story. What began as a well-intentioned attempt to provide a safe-haven for displaced children has turned into a nightmare for these ten individuals and their families.
Southern Baptists have a long and storied history of rushing to the aid of individuals in crisis. Our Disaster Relief ministry is the third largest relief organization in North America. In addition to participating in the formal Disaster Relief ministry sponsored by the North American Mission Board, thousands of volunteers from thousands of local churches routinely give of their time, talent and finances to render aid to others in the Name of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel said it this way, “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.” Southern Baptists have taken up this challenge willingly and gladly.
In the aftermath of the earthquake that rocked Haiti three weeks ago, individual Baptists mobilized themselves to do what they could. While we encourage our churches to work through the North American Mission Board, a local church can mount its own relief efforts without coordination with the SBC. One such small group rushed to the country with which it had already established a ministry relationship. In their zeal to render assistance to 33 children entrusted to their care, these ten volunteers failed to secure proper authorization to transport them across the border to temporary housing in the Dominican Republic.
The Haitian government and the international community immediately interpreted their actions in the worst light possible, alleging that they were trafficking in children. As the story has unfolded, it has become more and more apparent that these ten individuals were driven by the true selflessness of altruism. Moved with compassion, they acted.
I call on Southern Baptists everywhere to lift these individuals up in prayer. Their families and churches are under great stress. Let us ask the Father of mercies and God of all comfort to overshadow each family member with His comfort, consolation and grace. I also urge that we pray for the government officials in Haiti who are even now making decisions that will affect the health and well-being of these ten individuals for years to come. While he was shut up in prison, Jeremiah recorded these words of the Lord, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Let us be faithful to believe the best of these brothers and sisters in Christ and to call on the Lord in their behalf.
Morris H. Chapman is president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.