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Volunteers needed for relief work following El Salvador earthquake

SANTIAGO de MARIA, El Salvador (BP)–Southern Baptists are increasing disaster relief efforts in El Salvador, which was rocked Jan. 13 by a devastating earthquake. More than 700 people were killed and 190,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the disaster.

Four teams are being assembled to aid local churches with cleaning home sites and distributing blankets, food and plastic sheeting in Santiago de Maria.

The first four groups to aid in relief during February will be composed of volunteers from California, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. It is anticipated that after two weeks of ministry in Santiago de Maria, leaders will evaluate new opportunities to minister throughout El Salvador.

Meanwhile in India, in the wake of Jan. 26’s earthquake, a Southern Baptist regional assessment team has been dispatched to the western state of Gujarat to determine the most pressing needs, such as medical supplies and food, for response to the unfolding disaster, which may have claimed 15,000 or more lives.

In El Salvador, the International Mission Board is focusing on Santiago de Maria to fulfill one of its main objectives in disaster relief: to help churches and pastors expand their relief ministries, said Jim Brown, the board’s human needs consultant.

“The church in Santiago de Maria is very proactive and ministry-minded,” Brown said. “The desire whenever we do disaster relief is to work through local churches. We’re the resource but the local church is actually doing the ministry.”

Brown said relief efforts also are targeting future problems that may cause further damage, such as landslides, which are common during the rainy season.

“We’re looking to meet needs now, but also to be the best prepared we can be when the rainy season comes,” he said.

Many of the workers helping in El Salvador have previous experience dealing with disaster in this part of the world. When Hurricane Mitch barreled through Central America in 1998, volunteers from California and International Mission Board missionaries mobilized to offer relief.

“Southern Baptists’ two greatest assets are our speed and availability of resources,” Brown said. Currently, the board has provided $60,000 in relief funds for El Salvador.

He said the main goal of the relief work is to “support and strengthen the local church and meet needs at the same time.”

The North American Mission Board and International Mission Board are partnering to recruit volunteers for relief trips leaving Feb. 18 and 25.

For more information about joining a relief team, contact Pam Ortego of the North American Mission Board at (770) 410-6000, ext. 6131, or call the International Mission Board’s volunteer office for Mid-America at (804) 219-1221.

Contributions toward the relief efforts can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief Fund – El Salvador Earthquake, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

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  • Brittany Jarvis