WASHINGTON (ABP)—While China has accepted a very limited number of foreign-aid workers in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that devastated much of Sichuan province, Baptists and other Christians from the United States already were situated to help.
According to the latest published reports, the quake had claimed nearly 20,000 lives—a toll that could go as high as 50,000.
|Survivors pick through debris after an earthquake in China's Sichuan province claimed more than 20,000 lives. (Samaritan's Purse Photo)|
At least 10,000 people were buried beneath debris in Mianyang, a city near the quake’s epicenter. Bill and Michelle Cayard, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship representatives in China, had just started a partnership with a laity training center in that city, according to CBF officials. The workers also have connections with pastors in Dujiangyan, another city severely damaged.
Southern Baptist Convention relief workers also are in touch with partners in central China to assess needs.
“We have been in contact with partners in the country and have offered help,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response . “Assessments are being made as to what the response should be.”
Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and head of the Samaritan’s Purse Christian aid organization, was already on a 10-day trip to China when the massive temblor struck. He met May 13 with officers of China’s government-sanctioned Protestant organization, representing thousands of officially registered churches across the country.
“We want to do anything we can to assist with this crisis so we are committing these funds for initial support of the local church as they assist with the relief efforts,” Graham said, according to a Samaritan’s Purse press release. “I've been impressed with the effective and immediate response of the Chinese government and how they’ve responded to this devastating earthquake. Each day I’m here in China I am meeting with officials to assess the need and offer our assistance.”
The organization has already committed $1 million to assist with the immediate response. Following their meeting in Shanghai, China Christian Council President Gao Feng thanked Samaritan’s Purse for the help.
“This donation is very important to the people of China because it shows the love of God for all people,” Gao said, according to the release. “This will encourage more Chinese people to do the same and to reach out to their neighbors in need. Franklin Graham's visit is bringing us much more understanding and encouragement for each other.”
CBF committed an initial $5,000 toward meeting immediate needs for water, food and tents in Jiangyou, another small city in the earthquake zone. Its only officially recognized church building was destroyed by the quake.
“That was the only registered church building in a city of over 100,000,” Michelle Cayard said. “The pastor there urgently requested tents, as people are sleeping outside without shelter and it has been raining now for almost 24 hours.”
“Though this is a small effort, it encourages those facing such a difficult time and provides a witness to the community,” Cayard said. “After immediate needs are met, we will work with local partners to identify longer-term needs.”
With additional information from Baptist Press