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Texas Baptists Offer Tsunami Relief

Volunteers from Texas Baptist Men worked with local officials in eastern Sri Lanka to develop a way to quickly clean wells contaminated by salt water, according to dispatches from tsunami-stricken areas reported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Texas Baptists have donated more than $320,000 through the BGCT for tsunami relief. Some of that money is designated to be funneled to other entities, but a large portion will assist BGCT ministries such as Texas Baptist Men. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Water-purification teams sponsored by Texas Baptist Men are cleaning 25-30 wells each day in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Sri Lanka. Texas Baptist Men volunteers also repaired city water pumps and chlorination systems for two cities supplying water for as many as 150,000 people along the country’s eastern coast.
 
While cleaning the wells, Texas volunteers show Sri Lankans how to do the work themselves, thereby speeding up the recovery process. People cannot return to their towns until they get clean water.
 
TBM volunteers are also feeding several thousand people a day in Batticoloa. TBM workers were constructing kitchens closer to Kalmunai, where more than 10,000 people live in refugee camps but were asked to stop by the government for reasons that a team member said were unclear.
 
Victim Relief Ministries chaplains are meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of many of those who lost loved ones.
 
The damage is extensive. Entire villages were washed away. Homes and buildings were damaged beyond recognition. But Kevin Dinnin, president of the BGCT Baptist Child and Family Services, is amazed at how God’s people are acting faithfully. His organization has committed to build two shelters for Sri Lankan orphans.
 
“How do you pick up the pieces when everything you have is gone and many of the people you loved best are dead?” he asked. “There are faces and voices none of us will ever forget. There were examples of Sri Lankans living their faith that will inspire us as long as we live.”
 
The efforts already are making an impact in the largely Hindu and Muslim areas. One Sri Lankan pastor is getting a chance to minister to those who formerly persecuted him. Through Texas Baptist efforts, the pastor was able to provide a medical clinic for his village. He prayed with a man who once beat him because of his faith. The pastor serves those who repeatedly burned down his home.
 
“They’re having a huge impact in so many different ways in Muslim and Hindu communities,” said David Beckett, a Gospel for Asia missionary and member of CurreyCreekBaptistChurch in Boerne, Texas. “You’re hearing story after story of people breaking down and crying.”
 
A variety of BGCT agencies are mounting fund-raising efforts of their own.
 
Baylor University Student Government is attempting to raise $50,000 for Samaritan’s Purse to use in the relief effort. HoustonBaptistUniversity is donating all the admission and concession receipts accrued during its Jan. 13 basketball games to UNICEF. DallasBaptistUniversity has raised enough money to pay for two Texas Baptist Men water purifiers. Several Baptist Student Ministries are raising funds.
 
East TexasBaptistUniversity is collecting money for Texas Baptist Men as well. The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is collecting funds that will disbursed by WorldconneX, a BGCT missions agency.
 
Another Texas Baptist pastor described his work in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in a weblog.
 
“All I can say is the pictures do not show how horrific it really is,” Bob Roberts, pastor of NorthwoodChurch for the Communities in Keller, Texas, wrote in his journal, which is linked to his church’s Web site.
 
“When you arrive at the airport you are struck by the pictures of people on the wall that are missing. You drive through mud to get where you are going. Bodies–most of the time, not all [of] the time in body bags–line the roads.
 
“It’s leveled. Between a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami, everything is flattened. Concrete and everything is piled with cars, people and boats mixed in like this kind of landscape stew. Soldiers and people are constantly pulling dead bodies from buildings. This will go on for months.”
 
Roberts reported “sadness” in the people he’s talked to. “Even if they don’t know anyone, it’s like America after 9/11,” he wrote. “We don’t get the full scope of this. Yes, 155,000 dead and others missing, but over 1 million people homeless, and for them life is really bad.”
 
John Hall is a news writer for Texas Baptist Communications.