ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, more than 25,000 separate donations totaling more than $18 million have poured into the North American Mission Board — so many that the Southern Baptist Convention entity has hired temporary help to process the gifts. Nearly $10 million of that amount has already been sent to the devastated areas to minister to needs of individuals and Southern Baptist churches and to share Christ.
Most of the checks have been in the $25-$100 range and often come with notes expressing concern for hurricane victims and usually include a “God Bless You” to Southern Baptists for their unprecedented disaster relief efforts the last two months in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida.
Individual donations have been as little as two quarters taped to an index card and as much as half a million dollars. One woman inserted a $5,000 check into an envelope -– without a note or instruction of any kind -– and simply scribbled NAMB’s address on it and mailed it. Another individual sent a personal check for $10,000.
One note from a California mother indicated that her little girl had collected $231 by asking friends to forego presents at her recent 9th birthday party.
Another envelope included $90 with a note written in pencil in the unmistakable scrawl of a child, saying that she hoped the hurricane “peopil get hellp. I hope they get bedder.”
Contributions have arrived from every state in the union, and not all donors were Baptists or even believers.
Significant contributions also have been sent by churches, associations, state Baptist conventions, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and other SBC entities, but also from banks, corporations, clubs and foundations.
Many of the non-Southern Baptist gifts resulted from a series of fundraising letters sent on NAMB’s behalf to 300,000 people who had given previously to conservative political causes. The fundraising agency based in Virginia is owned by a friend of NAMB development officer Claude Rhea.
“My friend called a couple of weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the coast, and said he’d like to help us raise funds for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Rhea said. “He believed that many who were not Southern Baptist would welcome the opportunity to give to a Christian organization that was ministering to millions if they only knew about us -– especially when 100 percent of every gift goes directly to meeting needs.”
Rhea said the letters generated more than three-quarters of a million dollars and the administrative cost of the mailings was paid from NAMB operating expenses, not disaster relief monies.
So what are the gifts being used for?
“The North American Mission Board has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on food, fuel, lodging, communications, building materials and other immediate needs for victims, families, churches, pastors, relief workers and others in the affected areas,” explained Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, president of NAMB. “And, we’ve sent over $9 million dollars to our mission partner state conventions in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas because they’re the ones who know the needs better than anyone else.
“For instance, we just sent checks for $2.5 million each to Mississippi and Louisiana and last week we sent checks for half a million dollars each to the two state Baptist conventions in Texas, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” Reccord said. “I talked with both their executive directors and told them those funds epitomize our interdependence as Southern Baptists. We depend on each other to be able to minister and witness to those around us. Cooperation is the key to Southern Baptists and nothing has demonstrated that cooperation like disaster relief.”
With official hurricane season continuing until the end of November and the multi-year rebuilding just starting, Southern Baptist relief efforts remain in high gear.
Contributions for disaster relief may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort or to NAMB. Donations to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief may be made online, www.NAMB.net, or by calling1-866-407-6262. Contributions also can be mailed to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
Disaster relief information including downloadable videos are posted regularly at www.NAMB.net.