Global Baptists responding to Pacific Rim disasters

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptist relief agencies worked on several fronts to respond to humanitarian needs created by a series of tsunamis, earthquakes and tropical storms in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.

Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, said Baptists around the world are praying for disaster victims, but prayers alone aren't enough. "We need your financial giving," the head of the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance appealed in a news release.

Montacute said New Zealand Baptists are working through links they have with a network of Baptist churches in American Samoa, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. At least 169 people in Samoa died in massive destruction caused by an earthquake and tsunami that struck the South Pacific island and other nearby islands Sept. 29.

In the Philippines, which was bracing Oct. 2 for its second major typhoon in less than a week, local churches provided shelter and relief. Record rainfall killed at least 293 people in the country Sept. 26. A second storm, Typhoon Parma, was expected to hit the island's northeast coast Oct. 3, packing winds of up to 120 miles per hour.

A team of three North Carolina volunteers, including one doctor and two EMTs, left for the Philippines Oct. 1 at invitation of Hungarian Baptist Aid. The team plans to work in cooperation with Baptist volunteers from Hungary and the Philippines' Luzon Baptist Convention. Montacute said it will take "many months" for people there to rebuild.

Field personnel of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship left Oct. 2 for the Indonesian island of Sumatra to deliver supplies and offer help to victims of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 earthquakes that left more than 1,100 dead. Rescue workers from BWAid also headed toward the region.

Montacute said Baptists in the area are trained and prepared to respond, primarily because of previous experience following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the deadliest in recorded history.

Local Baptist relief efforts are being supported by a second international BWAid Rescue Team headed for the Indonesian city of Padang from Hungary and Germany. The 12-member team includes technical rescuers, dog handlers and doctors. They will work alongside a second three-member search-and-rescue team from North Carolina Baptist men, also deployed Oct. 1.

Officials expect Indonesia's death toll to rise, as rescuers continue to search for survivors amid rubble.

Montacute and Bela Szilagyi of Hungarian Baptist Aid have taken the lead in coordinating Baptist relief efforts, joining with other Baptist leaders around the world.

Directions for designating donations for Pacific Rim disaster relief are available at the Baptist World Alliance website.


--Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

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