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Guam typhoon prompts need for disaster assistance funds


ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The most destructive typhoon ever to hit the U.S. territory of Guam has not yet required the mobilization of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, but officials say financial contributions are needed to help with the massive relief effort.

Typhoon Pongsonnah hit Guam Dec. 8, causing three deaths among the Pacific island’s population of 150,000. It directly hit two villages and a U.S. Air Force base with winds up to 180 mph and caused widespread power outages throughout the island.

“Basically there are 32,000 people homeless,” said Joel Phillips, off-site coordinator for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network and a North American Mission Board volunteer mobilization associate. “The north end of the island took the greatest brunt of the storm.”

Of the six Southern Baptist churches, only two received significant damage. The most affected was Tamuning Baptist Church.

“We received minimal damage to the parsonage where we live, but our church buildings next door for the most part received extensive damage,” Tommy Wallace, pastor of the church, said in an e-mail to friends. “Doors and windows were blown off, air conditioners were blown away, walls inside were caved in. Our pews, carpet and musical instruments were soaked.”

Because of the damaged infrastructure, disaster officials have asked relief organizations not to send “in-kind” donations or disaster response volunteers, according to Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for NAMB. Cash contributions are needed, however.

“The truth of the matter is that cash contributions give the relief leaders more flexibility to meet the needs,” he said. “We may still get an invitation to go in and feed or help rebuild, but already our Southern Baptists churches have been asked to provide $10,000 just to begin providing relief for the churches and some of the communities on Guam.”

Burton noted that NAMB’s unbudgeted disaster assistance fund currently is depleted. “Southern Baptists’ ability to respond to disasters is directly proportionate to the contributions we receive,” he said.

Contributions designated for disaster relief may be sent to the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022. Donations also may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief.

Funds designated for the Guam response also may be sent to the Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention, 2042 Vancouver Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822-2491.

More than 25,000 trained volunteers currently are a part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network nationwide. The units generally are owned and operated by state conventions and local associations and coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board.

For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief responses, visit www.namb.net/dr.
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  • James Dotson