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Tsunami relief reflects potential of united effort, Rankin says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists have given more than $16 million to tsunami relief, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told messengers June 21 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The funds not only provided emergency aid to survivors of the tsunami but are “underwriting long-term rebuilding projects to minister to people and restore hope and livelihood” to the devastated region, Rankin said. “Hundreds of volunteers have gone at personal expense and with the help of churches and state conventions to participate in these projects.

“Most of this mobilization of volunteers and resources is being coordinated by the disaster relief staff of our state conventions, assisted by the North American Mission Board — a synergy that reflects the genius of cooperation among Southern Baptists.”

Last Dec. 24, a horrifying earthquake shook the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing thousands in a matter of seconds. Minutes later a surge of tsunami waves began their devastating torrent across the region. In only a few hours the tsunami flooded coastlines in 11 countries. More than 250,000 were killed or presumed dead in the tsunami’s aftermath.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, gave a portion of the EC report time to Rankin, who said the primary countries impacted by the tsunami in the Pacific Rim and southern Asia were places with a high concentration of Southern Baptist workers.

“Our personnel were able to respond to provide immediate aid and mobilize national Baptists to coordinate ongoing relief efforts,” Rankin reported. “Challenges such as this reflect the compassion of Southern Baptists and the cooperative spirit of our convention and what can be done when everyone responds.”

Rankin introduced Cliff Satterwhite, South Carolina Baptists’ disaster relief coordinator, one of the state conventions involved in the projects from the beginning. A team of South Carolina volunteers was on its way to southern Asia to establish a partnership with IMB missionaries in the region when the tsunami occurred. The team diverted its itinerary to Sri Lanka and was on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

“We were the first Baptists to come into Sri Lanka and met with teams there and went to villages,” Satterwhite said. “We saw tremendous devastation and the aftermath of the loss of life. People holding [dead] family members and pictures wanted to go show us where their home used to be. They wanted to tell us how many family members they lost. They wanted to see if you could help them in any way.

“We were able to feed them. We were able to pray with them. We were able to care for them and to try to be there with them in a time of need. I’ve seen many disasters over the years but this, of course, was a worldwide disaster that affected this major part of the world that’s lost.”

Satterwhite pointed out that South Carolina was only one of the Baptist state conventions that responded to the tsunami relief. He said South Carolina Baptists have their 15th team currently working in Sri Lanka. That convention has teams scheduled to go over the next couple of months and hopefully, he said, into next year.

He said the relief workers have “found opportunities in [the tsunami region] where it’s hard to share the Gospel [and] to be able to make a difference. Understand that finding fruit in that area is very difficult.”

However, Satterwhite drew applause from the audience when he told how a couple of volunteers on a recent team were walking through a Buddhist village and a boy chased them down and said, “You need to come to my house. My father has something to tell you.”

The relief workers followed the boy through the village to his house. Through an interpreter, Satterwhite said, the father told them, “You have continued to come and come, team after team, to love us and care for us. I want to give my house to be a house church.

“Of course, our volunteers explained he did not have to give the house away. He needed to live in that house, but that we would definitely dedicate that house as a house church.”

Rankin told Southern Baptists that “we are grateful for what you are doing and the many volunteers that continue to go to be a part of this effort. But it is not just in providing medical aid, rebuilding houses and schools, but this tragedy is enabling us to build relationships and plant the Gospel through demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ that will result in house churches there.”

Don Dent, IMB regional leader for the Pacific Rim, thanked Southern Baptists “for expressing the love of Jesus Christ to the tsunami victims and partnering with us to respond to this unusual disaster in an unprecedented way. Already hundreds of volunteers from your churches have been involved feeding the hungry, providing medical care, reconstructing buildings, cleaning wells, and now we are beginning to rebuild a broken economy in those places.

“The people there who all of their lives have believed Christians were their enemies are asking us daily, ‘Why do these people care so much about us?’ When we combine those volunteer aid projects with a clear witness in the local language — a clear witness of Jesus Christ and His love for them — it is a powerful combination.”

Dent told messengers the IMB has moved 36 missionaries in the tsunami zone to take advantage of relief opportunities. But in just a few months the list of volunteer teams going to help has dwindled, he said.

“We need literally hundreds of more volunteer teams over the next year to take advantage of this opportunity among four unreached peoples who do not have a church at this time,” Dent said. “God is leading people to Himself and church is being established among peoples who have never had the chance to hear the Gospel. Thank you so much. Keep coming and keep praying.”
— The devastation from the 2004 tsunami will be felt for years to come. For a video titled “Scope of Catastrophe” go to http://imb.org/asx/sbc2005/scope_sm.asx.
— Southern Baptists are offering aid and the love of Jesus Christ to those hardest hit by the Tsunami. For a report on volunteers working in the relief efforts go to http://imb.org/asx/sbc2005/vols_sm.asx.
— For Cliff Satterwhite’s video comments on South Carolina Baptists response to tsunami relief go to
http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/sc_baptists_respond-sm.asx or http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/sc_baptists_respond-md.asx.
— For a video of Don Dent thanking Southern Baptists for expressing the love of Jesus Christ to the Tsunami victims go to http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/thank_you-sm.asx or http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/thank_you-md.asx.
— For a video of Don Dent explaining the opportunities for relief efforts in the tsunami region go to
http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/moment-sm.asx or http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/moment-md.asx.
— For a video of Don Dent asking for more volunteers to bring aid to the tsunami region go to http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/need_vols-sm.asx or http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/need_vols-md.asx.
— In this video, Don Dent shares that some of the people helped through the tsunami relief are coming to Christ: http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/accept_christ-sm.asx or http://www.imb.org/asx/SBC2005/accept_christ-md.asx.

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  • Michael Chute