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LifeWay responds to tragedy with online lessons, resources, gifts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Timely online Sunday school lessons, assistance through LifeWay Christian Stores and employee donations for disaster relief are among responses by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention to acts of terrorism toward the United States.

As one response to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, employees in LifeWay’s E-business group, church resources division and information systems department worked together to prepare Sunday school lessons to help Southern Baptist Sunday school teachers be ready for their Sept. 16 classes.

By Thursday, Sept. 13, LifeWay had lessons available on www.lifeway.com for adults, youth, children (older, younger and kindergarten age), said Jim Johnston of LifeWay publishing services and multimedia.

More articles giving help and guidance were quickly posted on LifeWay’s website at www.lifeway.com. Article titles included “Helping Those Who Hurt,” “Dealing with Disaster,” “Responding to Children’s Fears,” “Delivering Bad News,” “Does Someone Need Your Ears?” and “Overcoming Your Fear.” In addition, a link was posted to the 24-Hour Counselor website on “Someone Close to Me has Died.”

As of Sept. 21, the lessons had been viewed and/or downloaded a total of 204,840 times. The additional articles that were placed on the site had been viewed 6,185 times.

Almost immediately after the terrorist attacks, LifeWay Christian Stores began work with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to offer disaster relief in 50 cities near major U.S. airports. Among available resources were food, water, clothing, grief counseling and spiritual ministry. LifeWay Stores planned to provide evangelistic tools, tracts and grief response materials to directors of missions.

On Sept. 21, LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. offered employees a way to contribute money to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. He said those gifts will be doubled in value as LifeWay will match employee gifts dollar for dollar. Funds given by employees will be sent to NAMB after Oct. 1. NAMB’s Disaster Relief efforts supplement expenses for volunteers and provide supplies and needs of chaplains in disaster locations.

In another area, LifeWay, NAMB and the SBC Executive Committee are sponsoring a full-page ad in USA Today, publishing a message of hope and a phone number people can call for assistance. LifeWay has asked as many as 250 employees to attend a two-hour training session on Sept. 25 and to serve as phone encouragers after the ad appears. As of Sept. 21, the date had not been slated.

“This is a great opportunity for hands-on ministry and I hope you will participate,” Draper told employees. “While Sept. 11 is a day that changed our world, we can rest in the assurance that we serve a God who never changes. He is at work in the midst of this tragedy and gives us the opportunity to work alongside him.”

Meanwhile, LifeWay has been flooded with positive e-mail messages from Southern Baptists and others who appreciated LifeWay’s quick response to the national crisis by publishing the specially designed Sunday school lessons, Johnston reported.

Tom Walsh of Trinity Baptist Church, Livermore, Calif., wrote: “Thank you for this extraordinary effort to give us Sunday school teachers these lessons and helps…. My class seemed to really appreciate the chance to talk about their feelings and to study what the Bible says our response to this tragic attack should be. My only regret is that more teachers didn’t get the word that these lessons were available. Our church now sees the need to have a quick way to get e-mails to all our teachers and leaders. I hope God blesses you as much as he blessed me through the lessons you wrote and distributed.”

While not all people who e-mailed their appreciation left the names of their churches and cities, the sentiments expressed were the same.

Jerri Brady, a third-grade Sunday school teacher wrote, “I just wanted to drop a line of praise and encouragement to your Sunday school material providers. Your adjustment of the lesson material in light of God’s magnificent working through our national tragedy is awesome. I hate to use such trite expressions, but I am so thankful that your people are following his leading in this. A true comfort and guidance to his leadership is what our little ones need. Thank you for putting together just what they need this Sunday. Thank you, also, for making my ministering to them easier.”

Another teacher, Linda Barrett, wrote: “Thank you so much! I am a new adult teacher and have struggled this week trying to decide what to say to my class this Sunday. This is an answer to my prayers!”

In his weekly LifeWay @ Heart e-mail column, Draper said, “The most important thing we can do is pray — for our nation, for our president and our government, for those who have been injured, for the families of those who have been killed, for police and rescue officials.”

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