For many Baptists, the front line of attacking global poverty is rapid response to natural and manmade disasters.
“All of us are drawn to the relief aid,” Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, says in a new global-poverty resource produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics. “We see the pictures on the television. It’s media-genic, so people watch it.”
“We saw that with the tsunami,” he continued. “That’s relief, and aid is desperately needed–emergency relief is desperately needed in those situations.”
Relief is one of four main topics covered in “Always … Therefore: The Church’s Challenge of Global Poverty,” a DVD and online study guide from the BaptistCenter for Ethics designed to educate and empower Baptists to respond to global poverty.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Coordinator Daniel Vestal called the recently released DVD “sobering and challenging,” but at the same time “thoroughly biblical, informative, inspiring and practical.”
Joseph Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church and a member of the Baptist Center for Ethics board, said he hoped the resource would move “the church from despair to hope, from paralysis to action.”
Kathy Dobbins, minister of adult education of Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., also endorsed it. “This is a very well done and useful resource that challenges Christians to work for justice and mercy,” she said. “Every church should watch it and take the Micah Challenge.”
“I think we can understand acute hunger, because it’s something we can get our hands on,” Montacute said in the video.
Montacute, head of the Baptist World Alliance’s relief-and-development agency, said acute hunger is most often seen in situations “where people who, until yesterday, were able to provide for themselves, and now suddenly find they cannot.”
Alistair Brown of BMS World Mission said acute hunger is most often associated with some natural disaster, like earthquakes, floods or famine, and “Nothing has been so big for us in recent times as after-effects of the Boxing Day tsunami 2004.”
One of the newest Baptist responses to global disasters, Montacute said, belongs to Hungarian Baptist Aid’s nearly decade-old program built on “entrepreneurial but evangelistic zeal of some younger Baptist leaders in Hungary.”
“They have an energy and a speed on which to operate, and so almost immediately after the tsunami, they were there in Indonesia,” he said. “After the Pakistan earthquake, the Hungarians were again able to respond very, very quickly. So the Baptist family around the world provided them with the resources to be able to do that.”
“Always … Therefore: The Church’s Challenge of Global Poverty” is directed and produced by Cliff Vaughn, culture editor for EthicsDaily.com and a documentary filmmaker.
The 28-minute film includes footage and photographs of hunger relief and development efforts, as well as interviews with Baptists addressing global poverty.
Accompanying the DVD is an online, four-session Bible study with separate student’s and leader’s guides. The DVD can be viewed independently or in tandem with the Bible study sessions.
The DVD and online study guide were underwritten in part by Baptist General Association of Virginia; Baptist General Convention of Missouri; Baptist General Convention of Texas; Baptist World Aid; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma; First Baptist Church Endowment Fund, Richmond, Va.; Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown, Ky.; First Baptist Church, Griffin, Ga.; First Baptist Church, San Angelo, Texas.; First Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C.; and St. Matthews Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.
Along with the DVD/study guide, the BCE also recently released a pastoral letter calling on Baptist clergy to support the Micah Challenge, an international Christian campaign asking world leaders to reduce global poverty by half.
Launched officially in October 2004, the Micah Challenge, has been endorsed by the Baptist World Alliance. Baptists from Australia and the United Kingdom are leaders in the campaign, but it has until recently received scant attention among Baptists in the United States.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.