FIRST-PERSON: Helping the Haitians

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)--The breaking news out of Haiti breaks our hearts. The images of unimaginable suffering continue to be seen on television and via the Internet. The earthquake of 7.0 on the Richter scale has shaken the emotional foundation of the world.

For Southern Baptists and other concerned Christians, the question is what can we do to help the Haitians? Perhaps the best way to begin to answer that thoughtful question is to consider both short-term and long-term strategies.

At present, we need to bathe the situation in prayer. The hurting people of Haiti need our prayers. As Oswald Chambers once said, "Do not pray for a greater work. Prayer is the greater work." Indeed, there is no greater work for Christian believers than the ministry of praying.

Obviously, we desire to do something in addition to praying for the people. Giving through constructive and proven channels is another way to aid the masses of people in this nation ravaged by earth-shaking destruction.

For more than 15 years, our sister state convention in Florida has been working and ministering in Haiti through a vital and strong missions partnership effort. Florida Baptists have helped plant 890 churches and have developed an impressive ministry infrastructure of 21 convention employees who work as mission leaders and facilitators of visiting mission teams.

In addition, the connection of Haiti to Florida is a natural one, due to the number of Haitian Americans living in the Sunshine State.

On Jan. 13, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions cut an initial check of $50,000 for the Florida Baptist Convention.

More, much more, is needed and Southern Baptists will respond to this devastating situation as we have during the aftermath of the storms and other tragedies of the past.

There's no doubt that the Florida Baptist Convention is well poised among Southern Baptists to provide key leadership in helping Haiti. They are an excellent example of a state convention on mission with the Great Commission as they continue to be in the forefront of what Southern Baptists are doing and will be doing to assist Haiti.

As for Alabama Baptists, we plan to forward disaster relief donations to the Florida Baptist Convention for use on the ground in Haiti. The partnership with Florida Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board ensures the donations will be used both effectively and efficiently.

The long-term strategy is much more involved. When the green light is given to us, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from Alabama and numerous other states will deploy to Haiti.

Long after the news spotlight has shifted elsewhere and many relief agencies have departed, the "yellow shirts" (disaster relief volunteers) will be on the ground working in feeding, recovery, restoration and rebuilding.

More than four years after Hurricane Katrina, Southern Baptists are still working in the hard-hit areas of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The same will most likely be true in Haiti. Some of the hardest work comes after the days, weeks and months following such a traumatic disaster.

Alabama's disaster relief strategist Mel Johnson and his counterparts in state convention offices and national agencies will be working in the days and weeks to come to maximize every dollar and human resource possible to help Haitians through this difficult time.

As we view the riveting images of human suffering, we grow impatient, wanting to do something for hurting people affected by the devastation. Short-term and long-term strategies involve intercessory praying, intentional giving and in some instances, individuals going to Haiti.

The short-term strategy is now unfolding. In the near future, it will blend into the long-term strategy.

Thanks, Southern Baptists, for your praying, giving and going. Remember, disaster relief is a vital part of our one mission, the Great Commission. These efforts are financially undergirded by not only disaster relief funds but by the Cooperative Program. Together we make a difference for Christ in a world of hurting people including our Haitian friends.


Rick Lance is a state missionary and executive director with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. This article originally was posted at www.RickLance.com.

Southern Baptists can contribute to "Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief" through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net) or the International Mission Board (www.imb.org):

-- Online, donations to Florida Baptists' efforts for Haiti earthquake relief can be made at www.flbaptist.org, or to Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32257. Designate checks for "Haitian Earthquake Relief." For more information, call 1-800-226-8584, ext. 3135, or 904-596-3135.

-- The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti. Donations may be made online, www.NAMB.net, by phone, 1-866-407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to "Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB."

-- Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board's disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online, www.imb.org, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

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