Haiti assessment teams focus on urgent & long-term needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A Southern Baptist assessment team and one from the Florida Baptist Convention are working out logistics for trips into Haiti to connect with Haitian Baptist leaders and craft plans for disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that struck the island Jan. 12.

The international community is rallying to meet urgent needs -- from food, water and medical services to transportation and security, according to news reports. Search and rescue teams began combing the massive amount of rubble in the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. Military teams from other countries began establishing communications, transport and security services -- critical needs in a country where government offices and basic infrastructure were destroyed by the most powerful earthquake in 200 years.

The death toll among the city's 3 million inhabitants could top 100,000, Haiti's prime minister told reporters Jan. 13.

Serious security concerns could emerge as people become more desperate for food and water in areas where police and military control has not been established, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response. The capital's main prison also collapsed in the earthquake, raising the prospect of criminals escaping into the city. As a result, near-term attempts to travel to the country would be ill-advised.

The five-member Southern Baptist assessment team, with plans to arrive in Haiti early the week of Jan. 18, will evaluate ministry needs like rescue operations, medical services and shelter, as well as logistical concerns like transportation and security, Brown said.

A separate Florida Baptist disaster relief team is planning their own assessment trip to begin this weekend.

The two teams will collaborate in their reporting to the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network. The teams also will report back on long-term strategies to help Haitians rebuild their lives.

The Southern Baptist assessment team will be composed of representatives from Baptist Global Response, North American Mission Board and disaster relief specialists from Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina, Brown said.

Florida Baptists, who have had a 15-year partnership with Haitian Baptists, employ six indigenous directors of missions and a missions coordinator in Haiti for the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d' Haiti, along with 15 workers at the convention's guest house, located about 17 miles from the epicenter of the Jan. 12 earthquake. During the 15 years of the partnership, Florida Baptists have helped start 890 churches.

Initial funding for the relief effort is coming from the International Mission Board's disaster relief fund (www.imb.org). Money donated to the relief effort will be used 100 percent for ministry in Haiti, Brown said.

Apart from donating to the disaster relief fund, concerned individuals can help greatly by joining in focused prayer for Haiti's 9 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, said David Brown, who with his wife, Jo, directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas.

"We want to encourage Christians to focus their prayers on several points," David Brown said. "Please pray for those who have been affected by the quake -- people who are trapped in rubble or homeless, those who are hungry or injured or traumatized. Pray for all those who are involved in the relief effort, that the Lord would give them strength to deal with the awful conditions they are facing. And pray for those who are trying to organize people and resources to assist with the relief efforts. Pray that God would stir up His people to respond with the love of Christ to help people in desperate need."


Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Contributions for Southern Baptist Haiti disaster relief can be made online at IMB.org, through local SBC churches or state conventions or by mail to "Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief," International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. All funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs. Baptist Global Response, meanwhile, is on the Web at www.gobgr.org.

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