FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Sister seminaries of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary have begun initiatives to minister to Hurricane Katrina’s victims.
At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, a three-tiered approach has been adopted to provide relief to Louisiana pastors, students from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and members of the public affected by Hurricane Katrina.
At Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., President R. Albert Mohler Jr. urged students, faculty and staff to pray, give and go to assist with relief in wake of the unfolding crisis.
The seminary will offer housing and clothing assistance to Southwestern alumni and displaced students in addition to fielding disaster relief teams for the ravaged Gulf Coast, placing them under the direction of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s disaster relief coordinator.
The seminary has established a toll-free assistance line to provide information for displaced seminary alumni and seminary students. The number also provides information on where funds and staple items, such as non-perishable foods and toiletries, may be donated. For more information, call 1-800-SWBTS-01.
A number of housing units are available for alumni of the seminary who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Seminary President Paige Patterson said the seminary was offering lodging to displaced pastors and other ministers because their sole source of income, the financial support provided by the churches they serve, no longer exists.
The seminary’s Helping Hands house also is ready to provide clothing. Kent Sanders, director of student life, said the ministry, which receives regular donations of dresses, suits and casual clothes, would prove valuable as people arrive at the Fort Worth campus.
The seminary’s office of church minister relations also is ready to work with displaced pastors who wish to serve churches in Texas that currently have no pastor. Churches in the Fort Worth and Dallas areas who wish to partner with the seminary to offer housing assistance or request an interim pastor should call the seminary’s toll free number to speak with a representative from the housing office or the office of church minister relations.
Students from New Orleans Seminary who wish to seek housing assistance at the Fort Worth campus also may call the seminary’s toll-free number. The seminary, in conjunction with local churches and individual Southwestern Seminary students, stands ready to provide assistance.
Southwestern will be fielding teams to the area of the Gulf Coast affected by the hurricane. Seminary groups will be working under the direction of the Southern Baptists of Texas disaster relief response team, according to Greg Kingry, vice president for business services at the seminary.
“We want to make certain that our teams are being used in a coordinated way where they are most needed. The SBTC is working to identify those locations,” Kingry said. He said it is possible that the teams may not be able to work in New Orleans for months.
Students who wish to be involved in work with the SBTC in restricted areas must be certified as a disaster relief volunteer.
Kingry also said that the seminary would soon host a disaster relief training session on the campus of the seminary for students who wish to participate.
Seminary President Mohler said Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, claiming hundreds lives, demands that Christians mobilize to help people whose lives have been affected.
“Southern Baptists are going to be mounting a massive effort to assist people all throughout the region in terms of families in distress and churches that need to be rebuilt and re-established,” Mohler said. “Entire communities just have to be restarted and refounded. There are a lot of displaced people that really need assistance.”
Southern Seminary will focus many of its relief efforts on helping the students, faculty and staff at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Southern began its efforts Aug. 30 by signing up volunteers to serve on relief teams that will be ready to go whenever they are called upon. To date more than 300 Southern students and faculty have volunteered.
“They’re trying to build an army of volunteers to be ready. And this is your chance to sign up,” Mohler said in chapel. “We’re looking for a few good men and also women who can help with the rebuilding of lives and the reconnecting of the people. There’s a lot to be done.”
Southern also is collecting an offering for its sister seminary. Checks should be made out to the Southern Baptist Foundation and designated for New Orleans Seminary relief. Thus far the seminary family has donated more than $30,000.
The extent of the damage at New Orleans seminary is still unknown, but the lives of students, faculty and staff have been devastated, Mohler said. New Orleans administrators have set up a temporary base of operations at the seminary’s Atlanta-area extension center.
“We have a seminary, as it were, now in exile, setting up in its extension in Atlanta,” Mohler said, commenting on Jeremiah 29. “The most important part of this passage is what the Lord promises His people: ‘I have plans for you, plans for your welfare and not for evil.’ We have claimed that promise for so many who are suffering and grieving and scrambling together today to figure out how they can put their lives and ministries and families back together.”
Southern Seminary also is trying to help in other ways, such as making its campus available as a refuge for displaced New Orleans students.
Mohler noted, “No one knows what this rebuilding is going to look like. President Bush was surely right … when he said it would take years. But it has to start somewhere, and we need to make a response as quickly as possible.”