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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

As quakes continue, Baptists work to aid recoverycomment (0)

March 18, 2010

By Grace Thornton


It’s been a long time since Phil Brown’s Facebook status said something normal.

Or maybe earthquakes are the new normal for Brown, an International Mission Board representative in Chile.

Feb. 28: “Awakened by strong shake at 8:30 a.m. But it’s Sunday, and the sun is shining. We’re alive. God is good. Thank you to everyone who has and is praying for us down here.”

March 4: “OK, that shook the whole building @ 12:35am. Not funny.”

March 5: “Watching the ripples in my coffee as another shake passes. Active morning.”

March 7: “Feel that one at 3:36?”

March 9: “Big jolt!”

And 160 “replicas,” or aftershocks, since the deadly Feb. 27 quake that started it all, it’s not getting any better.

March 11: “Strong one, long one. 7.2. Emptied all the buildings around our office. Followed a second, then a third. And I was encouraged by the slow day yesterday.”

A 7.2. Then a 6.9. And then a 6.2. All three came that morning during the inauguration of a new Chilean president. It’s panic in the streets, Brown said.

And Baptists are hard at it helping victims even as the quakes are still happening.

Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers are on the ground in Chile, partnering with Chilean Baptists to address critical needs in two areas.The teams, which specialize in mass feeding operations, set up kitchens capable of producing as many as 1,000 meals daily.

And an initial amount of $150,000 from Southern Baptist relief funds has also been used to purchase water, first-aid supplies and other materials for distribution. Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of Baptist World Alliance (BWA), also sent $25,000 to aid quake victims.

An estimated 2 million people have been affected by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that struck coastal villages. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million houses were destroyed and access to food, water and electricity remain critical needs. About 250 Baptist churches in the nation were also destroyed during the quake, according to BWA.

At some point, Baptists may be asked to respond to a need to build temporary shelters for Chilean quake victims, said Mel Johnson, disaster relief strategist for Alabama Baptists. But for now, plans are still being put in place for long term Southern Baptist efforts there, he said.

Meanwhile Alabama Baptists are continuing to respond to needs in Haiti in the wake of a devastating Jan. 12 quake that killed about 200,000 people and left thousands more homeless.

Churches and individuals took ownership of the Buckets of Hope project, turning in thousands of buckets filled with provisions for Haitian quake victims. And missions teams continue to serve in the nation, doing feeding and medical work.

But efforts will be ramped up even more soon, as Alabama Baptists are looking to adopt a specific zone of Haiti on which to focus ministry, Johnson said.

He, along with a specialized assessment team, will head to Haiti on March 20 to make connections with local churches in Jacmel, a town about two-and-a-half hours from the capital city, Port-au-Prince.

“Jacmel sustained some damage, not the level of damage that Port-au-Prince experienced, but nevertheless significant damage,” Johnson said.

But the main opportunity for ministry will be among the hundreds of people who flocked there as refugees after the quake, he explained. “We are excited about the opportunity we have to have some firm projects develop out of this (assessment trip).”

Many of the Alabama Baptist disaster relief volunteers recently trained and credentialed will be called up to work in Jacmel over the coming months once transportation, supplies and housing are secured there, he explained.

“We are getting things in place on this trip and establishing relationships with local churches that we will be able to work through while we’re there,” he said.

Meanwhile a strong quake also rocked Turkey on March 9, killing at least 51 people, according to CNN. Local Baptist Global Response-trained disaster relief teams were responding in the nation, but at press time, the Turkish government was not seeking international relief help.   (BP contributed)

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