SBC announces nationwide initiatives to restore churches, assist displaced families
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--In response to the unprecedented destruction by Hurricane Katrina, the Southern Baptist Convention announced Sept. 5 the rollout of two programs to help damaged or destroyed churches recover and to offer assistance to families and individuals who have been displaced by the storm.
Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, released details of the two initiatives, ADOPT A CHURCH and HOUSES OF HOPE, in a column posted on Baptist Press.
"We are asking healthy and blessed SBC congregations across North America to adopt SBC congregations that have been badly damaged or destroyed," Reccord said concerning ADOPT A CHURCH. "This will be a commitment of anywhere between one to two years. All manner of help will be needed: mission trips, rebuilding trips, care packages, appropriate financial support, and encouragement for the staff who has been through numerous challenges.
"In addition, many other creative ideas for help and encouragement are as yet to be birthed! We have already begun to work with the affected state conventions to link churches in this great Body-building effort for Kingdom growth."
Reccord emphasized that no church is too small to participate and that it would take multiple partnerships to assist each church.
No official count of affected churches is available as officials still are trying to contact pastors in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. But, one unofficial estimate for Louisiana is that 300 churches either have been damaged severely or completely destroyed.
The scope of the HOUSES OF HOPE initiative figures to be massive given the sheer number of displaced individuals in the affected states. New Orleans alone had a population of more than 500,000 and government leaders have stated that structural as well as environmental hazards will not allow residents to permanently return for months.
Reccord stated that HOUSES OF HOPE would be one way Southern Baptists could minister to those displaced by Katrina.
"[W]e are asking for churches with facilities that can be converted into temporary housing for evacuees to become Houses of Hope," he said. "Our encouragement would be to begin with an initial commitment to house evacuees for 30 days, with a subsequent review for an extension if needed and appropriate. We will be posting on our website [www.namb.net] recommended guidelines for such efforts within the next 24 hours."
A number of churches around the country already have stepped in to offer facilities, stretching from Houston to Memphis and Nashville.
"While many have already generously opened their homes to evacuees, discernment will need to be exercised, especially in homes with children. There may be situations in which public facilities such as church education facilities and recreation centers would be the safer and more appropriate accommodations.
"Our greatest opportunity and privilege is this: In the process of giving not only hope for today and tomorrow, hope for eternity can be shared with those to whom every church has the opportunity to minister," Reccord said. "And that is the reason for which we as Christ-followers exist!"