ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–That question has resonated in the heart of every Southern Baptist in recent days. God’s people want to jump in to help alleviate the suffering of those who’ve been traumatized and devastated by the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina.
What you may not be aware of is this — if you are a Southern Baptist, you, as a member of the church, have already been there to help, because Southern Baptists are privileged to be one of the three largest disaster relief entities in the nation, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. And your regular giving to your church which participates in worldwide missions through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program means Southern Baptists are ready to respond at a moment’s notice and able to send 100 percent of Disaster Relief offerings direct to the disaster need.
What can you do?
Above all PRAY for decisions and arrangements that have to be made by so many who are working around the clock to meet the immediate pressing needs and the resulting long-term needs. Pray for the coordination of all the entities and agencies that are striving to work together to address the multitude of issues.
Second, please give! This is not going to be a short-term response. It will be a long haul. The need now is to have the financial capacity to undergird the SBC relief efforts to meet the huge transportation costs, food and materials, equipment and generators, and so much more. Only your immediate, sacrificial and sustained help will carry the day. You can visit www.namb.net/disasterrelief or call 1-888-571-5895 if you desire to help by giving a financial gift.
Two unprecedented initiatives
I am pleased to announce that in relationship with our state Baptist convention partners we are launching two new efforts this week.
We are asking healthy and blessed SBC congregations across North America to adopt SBC congregations that have been badly damaged or destroyed. This will be a commitment of anywhere between one to two years. All manner of help will be needed: mission trips, rebuilding trips, care packages, appropriate financial support, and encouragement for the staff who have been through numerous challenges. In addition, many other creative ideas for help and encouragement are as yet to be birthed! We have already begun to work with the affected state conventions to link churches in this great Body-building effort for Kingdom growth.
No church is too small to participate in this effort. Because of the massive destruction to the church buildings and the huge needs of the congregations, it will take multiple partnerships to assist each church.
HOUSES OF HOPE — In addition to the many churches that have already responded, we are asking for churches with facilities that can be converted into temporary housing for evacuees to become Houses of Hope. Our encouragement would be to begin with an initial commitment to house evacuees for 30 days, with a subsequent review for an extension if needed and appropriate. We will be posting on our website recommended guidelines for such efforts within the next 24 hours.
While many have already generously opened their homes to evacuees, discernment will need to be exercised, especially in homes with children. There may be situations in which public facilities such as church education facilities and recreation centers would be the safer and more appropriate accommodations.
Our greatest opportunity and privilege is this: In the process of giving not only hope for today and tomorrow, hope for eternity can be shared with those to whom every church has the opportunity to minister. And that is the reason for which we as Christ-followers exist!
Frequently asked questions
Do we run to the disaster area and pitch in? The answer is, No, not now. Presently what is needed are volunteers who have been trained and have the credentials to gain access to the area under the auspices of the sponsoring agency with which they serve … in our case, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. However, if you would like to be trained by your state in disaster relief so that you will be prepared to jump in and help in the future, we will post each state’s contact information on our website.
Should we get things together we think people need and send them, even full truckloads? For materials to get through to the needed areas, correct credentials and authorization are needed. Some trucks have been turned back because they did not have the proper paperwork. We don’t want that to happen again! If you have questions about making donations, please feel free to contact the North American Mission Board’s Disaster Operation Center.
Will we ever get to go do something? There will be a time when a broader base of volunteers will be able to help … folks like Baptist Builders, Campers On Mission and so many others. The North American Mission Board and the involved state conventions will alert the Southern Baptist family when that time comes.
We invite you to the website www.NAMB.net to become involved in either or both of these opportunities, or call (770) 410-6000 for more information.
The North American Mission Board is honored to serve SBC churches, along with our wonderful partners in the Baptist state conventions and associations. Now that the bottom has dropped out … let us as Southern Baptists stand up and step forward so the world will see what a difference Christ makes.