LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Students and faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will send a team to assist with urgent tsunami relief projects in the Pacific Rim during the seminary’s spring reading days in April.
Details of the trip are being determined by seminary administrators working in conjunction with personnel from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Southern Seminary has many graduates serving in the part of the world that has been devastated by the tsunami, and we are grateful for these and others who are already in place to serve the victims and their families,” said Twyla Hernandez, Southern’s director of Great Commission ministries. “The destruction and the loss of life has been overwhelming, and our prayers are with those who have [suffered] and who continue to suffer. We are currently in the process of discussing with frontline personnel how Southern Seminary can best respond to these urgent needs.”
Students and faculty discussed the extent of the destruction in southern Asia along with possible relief efforts at an information session on the Louisville campus Jan. 19.
Bonita Wilson, the IMB’s regional personalization consultant for the Pacific Rim region who spoke at the session, said the death counts could be much higher as debris is removed and more victims’ bodies are recovered. IMB personnel in the region “say that what you see on CNN doesn’t even compare to the reality of being there,” Wilson said. “… It’s very, very bad.”
Conducting relief efforts in Indonesia is particularly challenging because many militant Muslims in the country don’t want Christian relief workers in Aceh, she said.
A separatist movement, known as the Free Aceh Movement, has been simmering for the past 30 years and also produces danger for potential relief workers, according to Wilson.
Despite the challenges facing relief workers, Christians must come to the aid of affected areas because of the tremendous physical and spiritual needs in the Pacific Rim, she said.
The people of the Pacific Rim “are very open, and they are asking lots of questions,” Wilson said. “They are very receptive to the Gospel at this point.”
Although the need for work in the Pacific Rim is particularly pressing currently, Southern Baptists must remember that there will be a need for continued work in the region for many years to come, she said.
“Five thousand people die in Indonesia every day, and 90 percent of them have never heard the Gospel…. We have a chronic catastrophe in the Pacific Rim,” Wilson said. “It is anticipated that relief projects could provide outreach opportunities for the next two to three years.
“God has gotten everyone’s attention so that they can come together and hear [the Gospel],” Wilson concluded. “… There will be opportunities for men and women throughout the region.”