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Baptist Networks Speed Aid for Tsunami Relief

As the death toll from Sunday’s tsunami jumped to 116,000 with reports that 80,000 people were killed in Indonesia alone, Baptists worldwide sought to raise funds and network with partners for disaster relief.

American Baptist Churches in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />U.S.A. sent $20,000 in undesignated contributions to support the relief efforts of Church World Service, Baptist World Aid and partners in India and Thailand. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
“The magnitude of this disaster is difficult to comprehend,” said Lisa Rothenberger of ABC/USA’s International Ministries. “We are just learning of the staggering needs and formulating the best possible response at this time.”
 
In Thailand, American Baptist missionaries Jeff and Annie Dieselberg told American Baptist News Service that nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 7,000 injuries had already been reported in the southwestern coastal villages and island resorts of Thailand.
 
Jeff Dieselberg, director of the UrbanTransformationCenter in Bangkok, said thousands of persons have been transported to that city for medical attention. The Dieselbergs are helping to coordinate initial relief efforts in Thailand, working with the Church of Christ of Thailand and the Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship.
 
The Alliance of Baptists has a formal partnership with the Association of Baptist Churches of Sri Lanka and sent $80,000 there in initial response.
 
Shanta Premawardhana, an Alliance member who works with the National Council of Churches, told Associate Director Jeanette Holt that he has spoken with the Sri Lankan Baptist association general secretary, Kingsley Perrera, according to a report on the Alliance Web site.
 
Most Baptist churches in Sri Lanka are not in the immediate coastal areas where most of the damage occurred, but two churches in coastal areas have been turned into refugee centers, serving more than 400 people who are homeless.
 
Premawardhana, a native of Sri Lanka, said he plans to travel there in the next couple of weeks and hopes church-to-church connections can be developed between Alliance and Sri Lankan congregations. The Alliance is collecting relief funds and plans to send them by electronic transfer as soon as Perrera’s bank account is secure.
 
Daniel Vestal of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship issued a statement expressing grief and pledging support for victims and their families. He called on CBF churches to set aside Jan. 9 as a day of prayer for tsunami victims and to contribute to relief efforts.
 
“As Baptist Christians, we share in the worldwide shock and disbelief at the unimaginable suffering created by the earthquake and tsunamis in Southeast Asia,” Vestal said. “We mourn the loss of human life, the destruction of homes, and devastation of families, communities and countries. We pledge to do what we can in providing relief, and we promise our solidarity and help.”
 
CBF gifts designated for Asian Response will be distributed by field personnel and CBF partners, including World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Buckner Orphan Care International, ChristianChurches of Thailand and Baptist World Aid.
 
BMS World Mission in England approved $80,000 in grants and expected further grants in coming days. Partners in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia have asked British Baptists for help in their relief efforts, said BMS General Director Alistair Brown.
 
“We must do something, it must be significant, and it has to be speedy,” Brown said in an open letter to British Baptists.
 
Baptist World Aid Australiasent $25,000 committed by Baptist World Aid to LEADS in Sri Lanka, an indigenous Christian agency that works with Australian Baptists.
 
LEADS began intervention almost immediately, according to an on-line report. Emergency feeding has begun in Trincomalee on the northeast coast.  Immediate needs are food, clothing, drinking water, blankets and temporary shelter. Required medicines are painkillers and antibiotics.
 
The agency hoped to raise $300,000 in the United States to provide first-phase relief to 10,000 families.
 
BWAid Australia earlier committed $5,000 to a medical and relief team from Hungarian Baptist Aid, which left Dec. 27 for Sri Lanka with $110,000 worth of medical supplies. Much more will be needed.
 
BWAid Director Paul Montacute reported that his agency allocated an initial $25,000 for relief in affected countries, working with local indigenous leaders.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Click here to see how you can give to Baptist World Aid. Please designated donations to “Asian Tidal Wave Appeal.”
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through BMS World Mission
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through Australia Baptist World Aid.
 
Click here for information on how to contribute through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.