News Articles

Southern Baptists give, go in unprecedented response

SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP)–When news about the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami flashed across the television, Nicki Crow knew that’s where God wanted her. Months later, the volunteer missionary from Missouri stared blankly at the vast destruction still present.

Everyone Crow talked to recounted stories of the crushing walls of water destroying entire communities and killing more than 250,000 people. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless in an area stretching from Indonesia to Thailand to Sri Lanka, as well as various islands throughout the Indian Ocean.

Like Crow, Southern Baptists wanted to help — either through donations or as volunteers. Relief funds reached an unprecedented $16 million.

“This unprecedented tragedy has served to remind us of the urgency of getting the Gospel to all people,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin. “The millions who survived the tsunami have been traumatized by the loss of loved ones, the destruction of their homes and businesses, their continuing fear and hopelessness and having to cope with the threat of disease and unsanitary conditions.

“Our personnel were there providing immediate relief and are now assessing long-term needs,” Rankin continued. “Hundreds of volunteers will be needed over several months for rebuilding and ministering to so many who have lost their livelihood. Your gifts will go a long way to assisting with our disaster relief efforts, and through them provide an opportunity to share God’s love.”

Some ways Southern Baptists have ministered in the wake of the tsunami and later earthquake include:

— Listening to traumatized villagers tell their stories, weeping and praying with them.

— As medical volunteers, giving free diagnosis and emergency treatment.

— Searching for bodies of the deceased and removing them from the debris.

— Clearing debris and rubble from broken homes, schools and villages.

— Playing with children and teaching them how to maintain their health during the cleanup process.

— Pumping out wells that filled with seawater, salt and sand and reclaiming them for fresh drinking water.

— Building latrines and filtering systems for areas without sanitation.

— Joining local partners in preparing hot meals and providing food for families living in relief camps.

— Building temporary shelters to protect them from the severe tropical heat while more permanent homes were in the works.

— Providing sewing machines, new fishing boats and fishing nets so tsunami victims could re-establish sustainable livelihoods.

“Southern Baptists should be proud of what is being done,” Crow said. “I’m seeing firsthand where our money is going, and I can tell you that it’s going to the people and areas that need it most. Our money is actually helping people and, more importantly, opening doors for sharing the love of God.”

In one Muslim village, leaders from a foreign government warned the elders about allowing Christians in to help. “I don’t see you or any of our brothers here helping us,” the village leader replied. “The Christians care about us and are showing us love. The Christians are welcome to stay.”