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IMB, Va. Baptists team up to help islands hit by hurricanes

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists are reaching out to Caribbean islanders in the aftermath of four hurricanes that ravaged the region in August and September.

Food, plastic sheeting, roofing supplies and water purifiers have been delivered, and volunteers will help with clean-up, reconstruction and crisis counseling, according to spokesmen for the International Mission Board and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, which has a partnership with Baptist churches in the Caribbean.

The Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Haiti and other islands were devastated by hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Ivan, killing thousands of people and destroying homes, roads, power supplies, water treatment facilities, businesses, crops and hospitals.

On Grenada, about 90 percent of the homes were damaged by Hurricane Ivan, and many islanders are still sleeping in their cars a month after the storm.

Three of the six Baptist churches on Grenada were damaged, and three pastors’ homes were damaged or destroyed, said Jim Brown, the IMB’s hunger and relief ministries consultant. Those needs will be among many others addressed by volunteers, whose efforts will be coordinated by Virginia Baptists.

Similar needs exist in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and other islands, and proposals for those relief efforts are being drawn up, Brown said. Efforts to distribute relief supplies in Haiti were stymied by chaotic conditions in the streets.

As in all its relief efforts, the International Mission Board will be focusing on projects with long-term benefits that will continue to minister to families long after the “hit and run” assistance provided by other agencies has been forgotten, Brown said. Assistance will be channeled through local churches and associations instead of government agencies, and a primary focus will be to undergird the Grenada Baptist Association and the partnership between Virginia and Caribbean Baptists.

A Gospel witness is integral to all relief projects, he said.
Contributions to the relief efforts can be sent to General Relief-Caribbean, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, Va., 23230-0767. Volunteers interested in assisting should contact the disaster relief office of their Baptist state convention.

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