Baptists from around the world pledged prayer and financial support for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Baptist World Aid released $75,000 to offer immediate help to displaced persons, to be divided evenly among Baptist state conventions in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Baptist World Alliance’s relief and development arm is collecting donations designated for “Hurricane Relief.”
BWAid Director Paul Montacute said the agency has received and sent funds within the United States before, usually after a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
“BWAid is normally seen as operating ‘overseas,'” Montacute said in an e-mail, “but where is that in an international organization?”
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz said he has received messages of sympathy and promises of prayers from around the world.
“Through the presence of God’s people right now God is present in New Orleans,” Lotz said, praising efforts of thousands of Baptist people and churches lending a helping hand.
Montacute said Baptist relief teams from state and national groups have “done a fantastic job, as they always do.”
“Now the challenge will be as to how we can all help in the long-term rehabilitation of the survivors,” Montacute said.
Hungarian Baptist Aid, which is well-known for responding to natural disasters including last year’s South Asian tsunami, was asked to help support search-and-rescue operations. Last week Baptist volunteers from North Carolina were in Hungary for training.
After Katrina, HBAid staff member David Gal and rescue coordinator Laszlo Pavelcze headed to the U.S. to work alongside teams of North Carolina Baptist Men. Five members of Baptist World Aid Rescue24 International Team are also coming from Hungary.
A second relief unit from North Carolina Baptist Men left Saturday for Mississippi. A first unit at Meridian, Miss., served 23,000 meals on Friday, as refugees continued to pour in from out of town, according to the Biblical Recorder.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas announced Friday it would direct $1 million toward hurricane relief in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“All of us have been moved, shaken by this awful devastation,” said Charles Wade, BGCT executive director.
The BGCT mobilized volunteers both to serve in affected areas and to assist displaced persons in Baptist churches and camps in Texas. Texas Baptist Men had seven disaster-relief teams in Louisiana as of Aug. 31.
Baptist Child & Family Services is staffing six “special needs” shelters in San Antonio for hurricane victims who have acute medical needs but do are not hospitalized. The governor’s office assigned the Baptist General Convention of Texas agency to coordinate all the city’s special-needs victims, including those in wheelchairs, elderly, families with infants, expectant mothers, hearing and sight impaired and those who need life-sustaining medication.
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., President William J. Shaw declared the first three Sundays in September as “Katrina Disaster Relief Sundays” and requested churches across the county to make special contributions to provide aid to victims of the storm.
The convention Web site includes a message board to help people displaced by the hurricane let others know where they are and how they are doing.
Delegates at this week’s convention in Atlanta were scheduled to hear a report from the three affected states.
“The convention prays fervently for all who suffer from this catastrophic disaster,” Shaw said in a statement. “Its ripple fall out will impact not only the direct victims in the area but millions across the country in higher food, fuel, home and other related costs.”
Shaw called on church members to “stay diligent in prayer and in the offering of your time and resources towards relief for all who are affected.”
Virginia Baptist volunteers were first on the scene at hurricane-ravaged Picayune, Miss., about 50 miles from New Orleans, serving about 16,000 meals during the first day and a half from a mobile kitchen. Fifty-nine workers representing the Baptist General Association of Virginia are working in feeding, recovery, cleanup, water purification and counseling. A Virginia Baptist shower unit headed for Memphis, Tenn., for assignment in cooperation with other agencies.
Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is working in partnership with Volunteers of America Southeast, headquartered in Mobile. Volunteers helped with food distribution, debris removal and flood cleanup in Bayou La Batre, Ala. Personal care boxes will collected at four churches beginning Sept. 15-16.
Passport, a youth camping ministry based in Birmingham, took advantage of access to south Alabama, using two vans and two trailers to deliver water, diapers, formula and other baby items to a disaster-relief site manned by volunteers from First Baptist church in Pensacola, Fla. National CBF paid for supplies, which cost nearly $10,000, with staff assistance by John and Amy Derrick, CBF global mission staff members who live in Birmingham.
The national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is accepting on-line donations for hurricane relief. Checks should be payable to CBF and have ”Hurricane Relief Fund #17004″ in the memo line.
Advance teams are working to set up volunteer centers near CBF churches in Mississippi and Louisiana to help with basic debris removal and temporary weatherproofing.
David Harding, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s international coordinator of emergency response, is working with state CBF coordinators in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to establish operations for staging volunteer efforts.
“There will be enough work to last many years in these communities,” CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said in a statement.
Vestal said team leaders will work with state coordinators to determine exit strategies and use a mentoring process to prepare volunteers in each CBF church selected as a staging area. “Volunteer participation from these churches is crucial,” Vestal said. “Each response takes on a life of its own and we should be prepared to flex and learn as we go.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Becky Bridges, Paul Montacute and Mart Gray contributed to this report.