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Pakistan relief gifts lagging, group told

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More people have been affected by the flooding in Pakistan in August than the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti and Pakistan earthquakes combined. Yet money donated for the recent tragedy’s relief efforts continues to lag.

Todd Lafferty, a global strategist for South Asian peoples at the International Mission Board, presented the need during an Oct. 3-5 South Asia Summit in Knoxville, Tenn., and Southern Baptists responded on the spot. More than $16,600 — or one-fourth of the total Pakistan flood relief donations that had been received from the United States through September — was raised in one night.

Southern Baptist relief workers have been able to respond to the disaster — nearly $750,000 in aid so far — because Southern Baptists have given generously to their general hunger and relief funds, said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs work in South Asia for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

Gifts like those received at the summit are crucial to help replenish reserves badly depleted by the Pakistan response, Horton said.

“Southern Baptists had only given $50,000 [to aid Pakistan’s August flood victims], but the congregation that night gave a third of that amount,” Lafferty said. “With so many people homeless, $50,000 is a drop in the bucket.”

Lafferty, posing a question in general, asked, “What will you do to care for the people of Pakistan?”

Baptist Global Response estimates the flooding in Pakistan affected more than 18 million people, including 8.5 million children still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The Asian Development Bank and World Bank Assessment report that the flooding inflicted $9.5 billion in damage to property, crops and infrastructure.

Christian worker Jim Sims* recently returned from administering relief in Pakistan. With the needs still fresh in his mind, he told participants about a family who returned to their land and found a mound of mud, pieces of board and a wood beam. It was unrecognizable that their home had ever been there.

“We walked over to his broken home and asked him how long he had been there,” Sims recounted. “He told us that they had been in a shelter camp until two days ago, but were worried that if they didn’t come back and resettle their land that somebody would take it from them.”

Sims and his team asked the Pakistani family who had lost everything if they could pray with them. The family was living in a tent, waiting for the coming winter, knowing they desperately needed to plant their crops.

“I just prayed that somehow God would reveal to this man that He cared about him and that he had not been forgotten,” Sims said.

When Sims and his team walked by a week later, they saw that the family still hadn’t received any help yet.

“We stopped,” Sims said. “We couldn’t just walk away and pray: Be warm and well fed.”

Thanks to Southern Baptist relief funds, Sims and his team made sure the man’s family received shelter and a way to prepare their own food.

“We’re hoping that, if donations continue to come in, that we’ll be able to help this family rebuild their lives and plant their crops,” Sims said.

Since the October summit, giving has grown some.

To date, Southern Baptists in America have given $80,000 (either through IMB or BGR) specifically for Pakistan flood relief aid, Horton said. Other Baptists in the U.S. have given $13,000 through BGR for this effort, churches in Singapore have given $60,000 and Central Baptist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, has given $950 in spite of the enormous economic difficulties residents of that country face.

Projects in the flood zone, which also includes sites in two neighboring countries, have focused on food and water as well as some temporary shelter and cooking kits. A total of 128,475 people have been helped through 22 projects conducted in partnership with national and international partners.
*Name changed. Torie Speicher is a writer serving among South Asian peoples as a volunteer with International Mission Board. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at www.gobgr.org.

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  • Torie Speicher