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Rice for Haiti links Fla. & Ark.

STUTTGART, Ark. (BP)–Twenty dollars is all it takes to buy a 100-pound bag of rice to feed a family of four for “a long time in Haiti,” said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, who is spearheading the convention’s efforts to get food to the earthquake-damaged nation.

Soon after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake Jan. 12, Sullivan purchased 21 tons of rice from a distributor in Stuttgart, Ark., and made plans to ship the rice to Miami in preparation for delivery to Haiti. Striking a deal to purchase 42,000 pounds of rice in 100-pound bags for $20 apiece, Sullivan arranged to send a disaster relief semi-truck to take delivery of the rice.

But as he continued to be moved by the unfolding tragedy in Haiti, Sullivan doubled the convention’s order this week with an additional 21 tons of rice for shipment.

Meanwhile, in Stuttgart — Arkansas’ self-proclaimed “Rice Capital of the World” — First Baptist Church pastor Sam Roberts was looking for a way for his church to respond to the crisis in Haiti.

After a little research, First Baptist contacted the Florida convention because of its 15-year partnership with Haitian Baptists that has spawned nearly 900 Baptist churches on the island.

The Stuttgart congregation, many of whom are employed in the rice industry, determined that they, too, could transport rice to Miami with the final destination of Haiti.

With a commitment to ship two truckloads, totaling 80,000 pounds of rice, church leaders called the Florida Baptist Convention with their news.

It was only after a conversation with Sullivan that they learned the source of the rice purchased for Haiti. “We had no idea that Florida Baptists were coming into Stuttgart to get rice,” Roberts said.

Sullivan said the experience was much like a modern-day twist on the biblical miracle of the fishes and loaves. The Arkansas church essentially matched the commitment of Florida Baptists. Between the church’s efforts and those of Florida Baptists, 82 tons or 164,000 pounds of rice will arrive soon in Haiti.

Roberts said the congregation is excited about the connection with Haitian Baptists.

“I believe this is one way we can become involved in the partnership and continue to provide resources in the days to come. Helping Haiti will be a long-term effort,” Robert said.

Once the grain is delivered in Haiti, distribution of the rice will occur from the many Haitian Baptist churches in and around Port-au-Prince.

Sullivan said Florida Baptists’ 15 years of partnership and assistance to Haitian Baptists has resulted in a model effort to distribute food without the chaos experienced at government controlled food distribution points. “There is a respect shown when entering a church for food,” Sullivan said.

Noting that the average Haitian exists on a quarter cup of rice each day, Sullivan said each 100-pound bag of rice “will feed a family of four for a long time in Haiti.”

But Sullivan was quick to note that other than food, Florida Baptists intend to bring something more to Haiti. “We are going to stay there and help them rebuild their houses, help them rebuild their churches and help them rebuild their lives,” he said.

“We really care about the people of Haiti and it’s not just their physical being we care about. We are going to tell the story of Jesus to the Haitian people as we have been doing for the past 15 years.”
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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):

— The Florida Baptist Convention has established a Haiti earthquake relief fund, available online at www.flbaptist.org. Donations also may be sent to Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32257. Designate on check “Haitian Earthquake relief.” For more information, call 800-226-8584, ext. 3135; or 904-596-3135.

— 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.”

— 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.

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

  • Barbara Denman

    Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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