Mounting human needs in tsunami-stricken South Asia are prompting record gifts and unprecedented cooperation among Baptist relief agencies.
The Asian Baptist Federation, one of six regional bodies comprising the Baptist World Alliance, is working with Baptist World Aid Australia to allow Asian member bodies to donate on-line to help other Asians directly.
“We want Asians to see how their body, the ABF, is helping their member bodies to respond to the crisis and to help fellow Asian members to respond to all Asians with compassion, no matter what race, religion or creed,” said Les Fussell, national director of Baptist World Aid of Australia.
Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, said the network of support has grown to include Baptist groups and partners spanning from Argentina and the Bahamas to France and Georgia in the former Soviet Union.
“I just want to affirm how well we are working together for a bunch of Baptists,” Montacute remarked in a Friday e-mail.
Montacute said the way Baptists from around the world have pulled together to respond to the tragedy bodes well for future partnerships and long-term redevelopment.
Donations have been pouring into the BWA’s Virginia offices since the Dec. 26 disaster. BWAid received a record $113,000 in gifts from individual donations over the New Year holiday, Montacute said in a press release.
“I am delighted that donors can see that the thing most needed is cash,” Montacute said. “That is the quickest and efficient way to bring immediate relief to where it is most needed.”
Donations to Baptist World Aid Australia topped $1 million, according to a news release Friday. Much of the money is likely to be used by partners for immediate relief with additional funds going toward rehabilitation and reconstruction work for families and communities affected by the tragedy.
BMS Mission in Great Britain had received the equivalent of $561,000 in British pounds, according to a Friday report.
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our supporters,” said David Kerrigan, director for mission. “The level of giving which we are receiving now allows us not only to respond to immediate needs, but also lets us plan for longer-term assistance to some of the worst affected areas.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on Friday reported gifts in excess of $89,000. Contributors gave nearly $31,000 on-line and $58,000 by mail to the CBF’s Asian Response Fund, which is aiding relief efforts in several countries.
“We can assure donors that 100 percent of funds will go to relief,” said Barbara Baldridge, acting coordinator for CBF Global Missions.
Church-based charities looked forward to a big response on Sunday, as many churches planned to take up special offerings for tsunami relief following two weeks of intense media coverage.
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. offered bulletin inserts on-line to promote the One Great Hour of Sharing relief offering. The Atlanta-based CBF offered worship resources on its Web site, theFellowship.info. Alistair Brown of BMS World Mission wrote a responsive prayer to be read in worship services.
Meanwhile, a former Chicago Baptist pastor who now works as interfaith relations director for the National Council of Churches, left New York Wednesday for meetings in Sri Lanka and Indonesia to discuss how the U.S. faith community can meet needs in stricken area, particularly after the television cameras leave.
“We are particularly interested in questions of faith,” said Shanta Premawardhana, a former Alliance of Baptist pastor and native of Sri Lanka. “Every time I talk with anyone in Sri Lanka since the tragedy, people want to know, ‘Where is God?’ Ultimately the faith community will provide meaning for them.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.