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Fla. workers safe; guesthouse damaged

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–All native Haitian missionaries serving as employees of the Florida Baptist Convention have survived the earthquake and are believed to be assessing damage within their churches and communities.

“These men have been trained in disaster relief by the Florida Baptist Convention,” said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer. “They know their country, their people and have experience responding in the aftermath of hurricanes. We are grateful to God that they are safe and are there to minister to the Haitian people.”

Sullivan expressed concern that the convention-owned mission house has been damaged. Early reports indicate the damage may be severe.

The house, located in Port-au-Prince, about 10 miles from the airport, is expected to be the base of operations for the convention’s relief efforts. The mission house sleeps nearly 50 volunteers at a time and provides food and safety for mission teams traveling into Haiti.

A Florida Baptist Convention assessment team is expected to travel to Port-au-Prince Monday, Jan. 18, to determine how Florida Baptists can meet needs and provide assistance to the residents of the earthquake-damaged city. The team also expects to learn the condition of the guesthouse and the safety of employees who serve as missions leaders and mission house staff.

The convention assessment team has had difficulty getting into the country. On Thursday afternoon, the Port-au-Prince airport was shut down due to overwhelming demand of its facilities by relief planes and supplies being airlifted to the Haitian nation. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration restricted air traffic from the U.S. to Haiti.

There are other logistical problems. The shipping port is said to have been destroyed by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Transportation from the airport to the neighborhood where the mission house is located is expected to be an issue due to limited gas and impassable roads, said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida convention’s partnership missions department, who has traveled to Haiti 60 times in the past 11 years.

To assess the condition of the mission house required a Haitian pastor to walk five hours from his home to the Baptist facility, Culbreth reported.

The Florida team being dispatched to Haiti will consist of Culbreth and associate Dennis Wilbanks from the partnership missions department; Fritz Wilson, director of the disaster relief and recovery department; and Joseph Gaston, director of the Haitian-language church development department.

The convention, working in cooperation with Baptist Global Response and other Southern Baptist entities, is planning to establish feeding sites in and around Port-au-Prince, offer medical personnel and supplies, help those hurting in the churches and assist local Baptist churches to get back on their feet.

A second team, with representatives from the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and several state conventions, also will be traveling to Haiti for assessment, with both teams to develop a joint relief strategy for Southern Baptists.

The Florida convention has received assurances of financial support, equipment and medical resources from across the SBC as well as 40,000 volunteers who are ready to be mobilized. In preparation for the response, the convention has purchased 42 tons of rice to be transported to Miami and readied for shipment to Haiti.

Culbreth asked Baptists to remember in prayer the people of Haiti who were suffering even before this latest disaster struck.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Updates on the convention’s response efforts in Haiti will be posted at www.flbaptist.org.

Southern Baptists can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net) or the International Mission Board (www.imb.org).

Online, donations to Florida Baptists’ efforts for Haiti earthquake relief can be made at www.flbaptist.org, or to Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32257. Designate checks for “Haitian Earthquake Relief.” For more information, call 1-800-226-8584, ext. 3135, or 904-596-3135.

The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti. Donations may be made online, www.NAMB.net, by phone, 1-866-407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to “Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB.”

Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board’s disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online, www.imb.org, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

    About the Author

  • Barbara Denman

    Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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