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In Haiti & Chile, vols make a difference

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist volunteers are making a difference in both Haiti and Chile, as they demonstrate the compassion of Christ for survivors of two devastating earthquakes, a key leader of the disaster response effort said.

In Haiti, a tent compound will be created at a facility owned by one of the Haitian Baptist conventions to house volunteer teams that will begin rotating in April 10, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. The volunteer teams will focus alternately on cleanup and medical needs.

A volunteer team from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma will carry 10 tents into Haiti April 5, Brown said. A cleanup team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will use that compound April 10-17, followed by a medical team from Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., April 17-24. Other cleanup and medical teams will follow on alternate weeks.

Working in Haiti has proven very difficult, with housing and food in limited supply and coordination between relief organizations at a minimum, said David Brown, who with his wife Jo directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas. Yet volunteers are rising to the challenge and making the necessary personal sacrifices.

A medical team from Nebraska working at the Love A Child Orphanage persevered in chaotic conditions and was able not only to provide meaningful health care but also encourage Haitian families about God’s love for them in the midst of their crisis, David Brown said.

Brown quoted a comment by one member of the Nebraska team: “In the past [on medical mission trips], I questioned whether I really made a difference. This trip, I felt God was really able to use me.”

In Chile, the primary Southern Baptist relief emphasis will be feeding consultation and emergency shelter, Jim Brown said.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention continue to send in teams that specialize in mass feeding operations, Brown noted. Those teams will train Chilean Baptist partners to run the feeding operations themselves, with a goal of completely turning over those operations to Chileans. Once fully operational, a field kitchen is able to produce as many as 1,000 meals each day.

The emergency shelter effort focuses on building temporary pine-sided, tin-roofed, slatted-floor houses that can be assembled in a couple of hours, Brown said. Materials, labor and know-how are available locally. Plans are to construct as many as 600 of the shelters at a cost of about $500 to $600 each.

The Texas and South Carolina conventions were the two states on call with Baptist Global Response when both the Haiti and Chile earthquakes happened and both conventions responded very quickly with both assessment team members and volunteers, Brown said. Volunteers from Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana and Wyoming also have either recently served in Haiti or are about to go.

“We are really proud of the dedication and enthusiasm all the members of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network have shown for helping out in Haiti and Chile,” Brown said. “Our ministry partners in both places also have risen to the occasion and exercised real leadership, even in cases where they themselves had suffered great loss in the quakes.”

Southern Baptists have donated a total of $3.4 million to Haiti relief through the International Mission Board and BGR and a little more than $8,200 to the Chile effort, Brown noted. For Haiti, $405,000 has been released from Southern Baptist world hunger and disaster response funds and $550,000 has been released to Chile relief efforts.

A disbursement of $250,000 has been made for six distributions of food, personal hygiene items and temporary shelter materials over three months, in a project conducted in partnership with the Dominican Republic Baptist Convention and four Haitian Baptist churches in Port-au-Prince. Sixteen other Haitian Baptist churches will be enabled to minister in their respective communities, Brown noted. Another Haiti initiative will use $155,000 in relief funds to procure basic medical supplies, tarpaulins and rope. A guest house in Jimani, Dominican Republic, also is being prepared for use by future volunteer teams.

In Chile, an initial release of $50,000 provided emergency aid in the form of food, water, hygiene supplies, shelter, reconstruction and repair. Another $200,000 is helping set up several mass food preparation and distribution centers. The temporary shelter project is estimated to cost about $300,000.
Mark Kelly is a Baptist Press assistant editor. Online donations for disaster relief efforts in Haiti and/or Chile can be made by visiting www.imb.org. Every dollar given for disaster response will be used in ministry efforts conducted in partnership with local churches. Volunteer teams interested in assisting in Haiti or Chile can e-mail [email protected] or call 615-367-3678.

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  • Mark Kelly