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Southern Baptist tsunami aid: Gifts at $1.4 million & counting

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Checks. Thousands of them. Overflowing mail tubs and filling work bins. All for tsunami survivors.

The checks –- and online donations –- have been streaming into the International Mission Board from Southern Baptists around the nation since tsunamis ravaged Asia Dec. 26.

Among them, one stood out. Clipped to it was a colorful, butterfly-decorated note that read, “This is all I have that I can claim as my own.” The cashier’s check for $3,963.01 and unsigned note left no clue who had been so generous. But the intent was clear:

“It is my most prayerful and heartfelt wish that every cent go to the victims and their families. God bless you in your efforts to help these people in such a tragic time.”

Southern Baptists have responded to the earthquake and resulting tsunamis in the Pacific Rim and South Asia with characteristic compassion and lots of money.

How much? More than $1.4 million had been given by Jan. 6.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the response,” said Ritchie Lipscomb, who directs the department handling financial receipts at the board. A unit which normally has two people recording receipts had called in two temps and gotten help from other work units. Even the board’s treasurer took his turn opening mail and receiving checks.

Gifts ranged from three $1 bills in an envelope to thousands of dollars in a single check. Most checks came in smaller amounts — $20, $25, $50, $100, $200. But some were made out for $1,000, several for $5,000, others even larger.

Two of the largest individual donations came from Georgia and Mississippi. A homebound widow in Jackson, Miss., sent a check for $20,000. The notation on the check read simply, “Asia Earthquake Relief.” There was no other note.

A company in the Atlanta area also sent a check for $20,000. The Southern Baptist owner enclosed a personal check matching half that amount. “We always tithe on the company earnings,” he said. “I make the decision based on what God lays on my heart. I had my financial guy pull [the IMB’s] records. [They] seem to handle the money well.”

Because gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering pay for basic support and administrative expenses for missionaries around the world, board personnel can use all gifts designated for relief efforts on actual relief ministries. No relief funds are used for administrative or promotional purposes.

And relief monies are not spent simply on the first opportunity that presents itself. Assessment teams visit areas to determine needs. They often work with local Baptist churches and other evangelical Christians in determining where help will do the greatest good — not just at the moment, but in the long-run.

Field personnel then request funding for specific projects. The International Mission Board’s World Hunger and Relief Ministries office and Office of Overseas Operations evaluate each project by criteria designed to assure effectiveness. Project leaders follow up with two reports –- one right after funding is approved and another when the project is completed, returning any unused funds to be reallocated to other relief projects.

You can help by sending financial gifts designated “Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief” to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. To give online, go to the International Mission Board’s Website, www.imb.org, and click on “Give Now”.

    About the Author

  • Anita Bowden