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Increased relief giving allays suffering overseas

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists have increased their giving to human needs this year, allowing the International Mission Board to respond to major world crises that have left people lacking adequate food and water.
Through October, the board had received just more than $4 million for hunger and relief, an increase of about 23 percent over the same period last year. If gifts keep streaming in at that rate, receipts at year’s end will total $7.3 million, compared to $5.9 million for 1996.
But needs have sharply increased, too. In the past month, the IMB sent overseas $400,000, responding to drought in Indonesia, famine in Tanzania, a typhoon in North Korea and economic woes in Bulgaria. In addition, missionaries expect to respond to an earthquake in Chile, a tropical storm in Mexico and flooding in Spain.
“It seems the number and the severity of disasters that we have been asked to respond to have increased,” said Bill Cashion, the International Mission Board’s consultant for human needs. “We’re rejoicing over the increased giving, but our hearts are burdened as we see disasters increasing all over the world.”
Cashion’s office responded to 500 inquiries about overseas suffering in October, a sharp increase from the average 20 his office has taken per month during the past three to four years, he said. “It’s as if God is saying, ‘There are people who are going to send the help you’re needing,’ and then he’s sending us an increase in funds from these people.”
In North Korea, already wracked by years of flood-induced famine, a recent typhoon destroyed key salt reserves. North Koreans use salt to prepare kimchi, a staple dish made of pickled cabbage. An estimated 100,000 metric tons of salt will be needed to replace what was lost, Cashion said. In cooperation with Texas Baptist Men, the IMB has donated $50,000 toward sending the country 2,000 metric tons of salt; Texas Baptist men have donated $10,000.
The IMB already has released about $1.5 million during the past 18 months to respond to North Korea’s famine. In addition, Baptist state conventions working with Woman’s Missionary Union and Brotherhood groups have sent more than 30 ocean containers of food. North Korean government officials credit Southern Baptists with between $5 million and $7 million in aid, Cashion said.
Indonesia is bracing for up to two more years of drought resulting from unfavorable trade winds — the effect of “El Nino” — carrying moisture away from parts of East Asia. The resulting lack of a normal rainy season has allowed huge fires to rage in Indonesia, and water is growing scarce.
“They’re having to go deeper and deeper down to find water,” Cashion said. The IMB has released $158,247 to buy drilling equipment and materials and to pay for labor to drill 100 deep wells during the next two years. “Water from the new wells will save thousands of people, especially children, from the jaws of death,” he said.
Bulgarian churches benefited last year as unbelievers were introduced to Jesus by receiving food packets in the midst of a harsh winter. This year the IMB will provide $100,000 to Bulgaria Baptists to provide food packets to their own members, plus jobless Gypsies and Turks, as well as others around their churches who have no incomes. In addition, the IMB released $12,000 to buy 700,000 servings of soup mix, composed of vegetables donated from farmers in Texas and Colorado and shipped from Lubbock, Texas.
Bulgaria has been unable to establish its economy after the fall of communism and in the ensuing realignment of Europe. The average monthly salary has remained at around $80, and the average monthly pension is no more than $15 to $20. Still, the prices of goods and services have climbed considerably. Some observers estimate 30 percent of those living in the cities will be unable to afford heating this winter.
In Tanzania, missionaries and Baptists have chosen 18 churches as distribution points for about $75,000 worth of food and seed. Tanzanian Baptists expect to start a new church near each of the distribution points. “They will be fully responsible for gospel preaching, evangelism and ministry planned during the distribution,” said missionary Paul Hamline.

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  • Marty Croll