“From Relief to Relive”–that was the slogan in the Chennai, India, offices of Baptist World Aid partner, the Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA).

Two months after the devastating Dec. 26 tsunamis, the recovery work is moving on from relief to rehabilitation. While there are still some urgent continuing needs, much of the work is now gearing up to the provision of better temporary housing and even the long term building of replacement homes.

Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has so far given grants or committed funds of over $500,000 of aid from the $1.5 million received so far in the BWA’s offices in Falls Church, Va.

During a recent visit to Sri Lanka and India I saw first hand the distribution of food packages and rations. Some displaced families still rely on this provision through local Baptist churches.

However the biggest need is now to move people into more permanent housing. The emergency tents provided for so many are proving to be too hot in the heat, and people need to move into wood or block accommodation.

Walking around and seeing first hand the devastation of the entire coastal area of Sri Lanka, I was able to see the extent of the rehabilitation work needed. Every coastal community lost many of its inhabitants and much of its buildings. Talking with one village leader, I heard of how the two enormous waves came ashore carrying all before it. When the waters retreated at such speed, much was drawn out into the ocean.

I saw fishermen mending their nets and their boats. The underwater turmoil has led to a change in fishing habits and in the size and type of fish caught. So many people do not yet trust eating the fish, and so boat owners, fisherman and fish eaters are all suffering.

The Sri Lankan government has yet to finally determine its rebuilding policies, and the decision is not easy. They have already stated that they want no building within 100 meters of the ocean, the typical area where fishermen have lived near their boats. And so where to relocate fisherman is a difficult decision.

Walking through the ruined but lived-in remains of one house, the owner showed where the 100 meter line divides his house in two, “Where do I live,” he asked.

Sri Lankan Baptist leader Freddy DeAlwis explained plans for building some temporary houses at a cost of about $300 each. BWAid immediately pledged $60,000 toward the building of 200 of these. Hungarian Baptist Aid has plans to assist in the rebuilding of a number of homes, and BWAid will support this project with a $40,000 grant.

With more permanent buildings needed, the Sri Lankan Baptist Sangamaya has plans for the building of 75 new homes, and BWAid is also supporting this initiative.

Collectively, Baptists are doing a great deal in Sri Lanka. Working with and through the Sangamaya are Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid), Australian Baptist World Aid, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, BMS World Mission, North Carolina and Texas Baptists. Each of these groups has its own gifts, skills and commitment. The North Carolina teams have been cleaning wells, distributing food and “just being here,” HBAid are building an additional wing to an orphanage so that tsunami orphans and other children can be cared for.

In India I met with Baptist leaders involved in the relief efforts. While the extent of the damage is less severe than in Sri Lanka, the need is still great. BWAid has given a number of small grants to Baptist partners who have been distributing food packages and fishing nets. Leena Lavanya’s “Serve Trust” is now working to secure land so that some of the fishermen can rebuild their homes.

Visits to CASA and the offices of the Evangelical Fellowship of India Committee on Relief, showed how churches and Christian relief organizations working together can achieve so much more. BWAid will continue to invest funds in both of these organizations as they now move from relief to rehabilitation.

In Indonesia, Bonny Resu, the BWA’s regional secretary for Asia, met representatives of Indonesian Baptist groups and Baptist agencies working with them. Baptists have been involved in the relief efforts in Aceh, and are now moving on to plans for rehabilitative work. Work is being done to secure land for the building of houses.

BWAid and the ABF are planning a roundtable gathering of stakeholders in Tsunami relief efforts in Bangkok in May.

By working together, Baptists are able to achieve so much more. We are all trying to support the work of our indigenous Baptist groups in the affected areas.

BWAid has made the following grants and commitments:

–Sri Lanka: Baptist Sangamaya $10,000; LEADS $10,000; NCEASL $10,000; Temporary houses $60,000; Permanent houses $262,000; HBAid housing repairs $41,000.

–Indonesia: Baptist Union $15,000. Committed to fund house building.

–Hungary: HBAid emergency response and medical teams $98,000.

–India: Telugu Baptist Fellowship $5,000; EFICOR $10,000; CASA $10,000; General Baptists $5,000; NPBSS-Nellore $2,000; Serve Trust $7,000.

–Asian Baptist Fellowship $15,000.

We continually pray that all of our disaster appeals and approved projects will be fully funded, and celebrate when God answers our prayers. If the project to which your gift is designated has been funded, we will direct your gift to meet a similar need.

For further information on BWAid’s Tsunami Relief please check www.bwanet.org/bwaid

Donations to BWAid’s tsunami relief work should be marked “Tsunami Relief.” Click here to see how you can give to Baptist World Aid.

Paul Montacute is director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.

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