Don Sewell is EthicsDaily.com’s pick as Baptist of the Year for 2014.
He is the director of Faith in Action Initiatives (FIA) at Baylor Scott and White Health (BSWH) in Dallas, which has been shipping containers of medical supplies and equipment to trouble zones around the world.
Sewell is representative of how a number of goodwill Baptists have responded to the swelling refugee crises and the devastating disease of Ebola. He and BSWH’s FIA are examples of Christian faith in action.
Under Sewell’s leadership, FIA shipped medical equipment to Lebanon to help address the growing Syrian refugee crisis.
Four 40-foot containers of supplies and equipment have gone to hospitals in Liberia struggling with the Ebola crisis. The containers included much needed personal protective gear – gloves, masks, gowns, footies and plastic face masks. The containers also included stretchers and mattresses.
Asked by a local TV station why FIA was equipping Liberian hospitals, Sewell said, “We have the resources available, and … we have the compassion.”
FIA’s medical supplies have gone to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, South Sudan and Zimbabwe. Medical mission teams have been active around the world.
When undocumented Central American children were flooding into the U.S., creating a humanitarian crisis, FIA sent a trailer of supplies to the Texas-Mexico border. Included were 250 bags of hygiene and first aid supplies.
Don Sewell and Baylor Scott and White Health meet real needs. And they provide a model for what Baptists and other goodwill Christians, who have an abundance of resources, can do in a world without resources.
For a decade, we have made a surprise announcement at the end of the year about our Baptist of the Year.
Linda Leathers was our 2013 pick for the work she and The Next Door are doing to address the needs of incarcerated women and lowering the recidivism rate of those released from the Tennessee Prison for Women.
Glen Stassen was our 2012 Baptist of the Year for his lifetime of work on peacemaking and his focus on the “thick” ethic of Jesus.
Known as the “conscience of Alabama,” Wayne Flynt was named in 2011 for speaking without flinching when Alabama adopted the nation’s meanest anti-immigration law, and for working tirelessly on tax reform.
Babs Baugh was named Baptist of the Year for 2010. She was recognized for her philanthropic leadership. Social justice, moral reformation and advancing the common good happen because moral individuals with generous means make them happen.
We named Emmanuel McCall in 2009 for his leadership on race relations, recognizing his lifetime of commitment. In fact, the title for our documentary on Baptists and race – “Beneath the Skin” – was drawn from a quote by McCall.
Other recipients include David Coffey in 2008 for his leadership on interfaith dialogue between Baptists and Muslims; Al Gore in 2007 for his leadership on the environment; and Paul Montacute in 2005 for his being a global Good Samaritan.
One of the compelling biblical messages is that those who are faithful ought to share out of their abundance.
It’s a theme found in Deuteronomy 15, where during the sabbatical year, God’s people were expected to “open wide” their hands to those in need. It’s the idea found in Luke 12:48 – “To whom much is given, much is required.”
It’s a shining example of what those first called Christians did when they heard about a hunger crisis in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30).
More often than not, compared to the rest of the world, Northern Hemisphere Christians have the resources. Sewell is a striking example of one who is connecting those resources with those who need resources.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.