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Missionaries counsel quake survivors

JIMANI, Dominican Republic (BP)–As Southern Baptist disaster relief officials were heading to Haiti Jan. 19 to assess needs, International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in neighboring Dominican Republic were providing immediate relief supplies, medical aid and spiritual counseling to survivors of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti the week before.

“We have asked almost all of our IMB missionaries in the Dominican Republic to set the majority of their other work aside and focus on the Haiti response,” said Adam Hammond, the IMB’s strategy leader for Central America and the Caribbean. “Pray that the Lord would lead us to the areas where we can be most effective, where we can be used the most. We don’t want to go in and spin our wheels in a hundred different directions. We want to go in and do what God is calling us to do….”

After initial relief efforts, teams of IMB missionaries and Dominican Baptists are preparing to travel to the disaster zone Jan. 21 to deliver more relief supplies and offer counseling to quake victims and relief workers. Several IMB missionary counselors in the Americas traveled to the Dominican Republic to train teams in post-trauma counseling Jan. 19-20 and plan to accompany the teams to Haiti. Hammond asked Southern Baptists to pray for the teams’ safety as security concerns worsen in Haiti.

As teams prepare to enter Haiti for this stage of relief efforts, IMB missionaries and their Dominican Baptist partners continue delivering water, food and medicine to help injured Haitians streaming across the border into the Dominican Republic. They also are providing water and food to exhausted relief workers there.

After hearing of an urgent medical need at a clinic in the Dominican border town of Jimani, IMB missionaries Sam and Delores York traveled there Jan. 17. Delores, a nurse, immediately began caring for patients who had undergone amputations. Sam provided logistical and spiritual support for patients and workers.

Less than 48 hours earlier, the Yorks had received news that the quake claimed the life of Alexandre (Alex) Alincy, a Haitian-immigrant church planter they were training in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Alincy had been visiting family in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck.

“He was like a son to us,” said Delores.

While ministry at the clinic continued, IMB leaders worked with Dominican Baptist physicians to secure permission for U.S. medical volunteers to help with overwhelming needs along the border.

“There’s going to be a vast need” for short-term volunteers involved in many forms of ministry, Hammond said.

Hammond urged Southern Baptists interested in volunteering in the Haiti relief effort — in medical care or other ways — to send an e-mail to [email protected] In that e-mail, potential volunteers should indicate their name and contact information, what skills they have and when they are available.

Southern Baptists interested in donating supplies or offering other assistance also can send an e-mail to that address, but Hammond emphasized that financial contributions for the Haiti relief efforts should be sent through the IMB’s Haiti Response Fund. Contributions will go 100 percent toward relief efforts.

IMB officials in the Americas will form short-, mid- and long-range plans for helping Haitians based on the determinations made this week by the disaster relief assessment team in Haiti, Hammond said. The short-range plans will focus on providing food, water, medicine and other relief supplies — plans that already are being carried out. The mid-range plans will involve relief aid as well as spiritual help, such as counseling survivors and ministering to Haitian Baptist congregations. Long-range plans will include a daily prayer emphasis on Haiti and a continued focus on planting churches.

Hammond noted that the IMB currently has five missionaries assigned to work with Haitians — Mark and Peggy Rutledge, Sam and Delores York and Dawn Goodwin. Collectively, these missionary families have more than 50 years of experience living and working in Haiti. The Yorks and Goodwin work with Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic but maintain relationships with Baptists in Haiti. The Rutledges are on stateside assignment.

Hammond stressed that because of these missionaries’ experience and contacts in Haiti, the IMB has been “uniquely positioned” for this relief effort in Haiti.

All of these missionaries are still “focused on reaching Haiti and continue to relate to and work with Baptist conventions in Haiti,” Hammond said. Although the IMB had no personnel living in Haiti at the time of the quake, “we’ve never stopped working in Haiti…,” said Hammond.
Maria Elena Baseler is a writer for the International Mission Board.

Southern Baptists can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net) or the International Mission Board (www.imb.org):

— Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board’s disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online, www.imb.org, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

— The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti. Donations may be made online, www.NAMB.net, by phone, 1-866-407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to “Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB.”

Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

    About the Author

  • Maria Elena Baseler