While admitting the response by Southern Baptists to the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake will be a “marathon,” leaders of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network decided Jan. 26 to continue that long-term effort with four “strategically-selected” medical teams that were dispatched to the Caribbean nation by pairs on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3. Two medical teams from Mississippi left for Haiti on Jan. 31, while two others—one each from Florida and South Carolina—followed them three days later. Joining them were two representatives from the Florida convention, who will continue to make arrangements for trained disaster relief teams to travel in and out of the country.

Another meeting to discuss the logistics of getting additional response teams into Haiti will be held in Atlanta, Feb. 11-12.

Meanwhile, medical care, food, water, spiritual care through trained chaplains and church or residence repair/rebuild highlighted the list of plans to respond to Haiti’s urgent, intermediate and long-term needs which were addressed at the Jan. 26 meeting by assessment teams that had just returned from the quake-ravaged nation along with representatives from the Florida Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board (NAMB), International Mission Board, Baptist Global Response and other Southern Baptist disaster relief representatives.

The SBC’s initial response has been hampered by a logistical nightmare of how to get disaster relief teams into Haiti and respond to needs in a country where transportation and support for teams is extremely limited. Access to airports and shipping docks remains highly restricted, the assessment teams reported.

Although hundreds, if not thousands, of trained disaster relief volunteers from across the United States are ready to respond to the disaster, Cecil Seagle, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s mission division, said “all we can sleep safely in Port-au-Prince is 55.”

The group acknowledged that Southern Baptists are passionate about responding to the immediate needs in Haiti and urged patience as they try to solve logistical nightmares.

The Florida Baptist Convention, which has had a presence in Haiti for 15 years, has purchased rice and is helping local pastors distribute it to victims of the quake through many of the churches it helped build there.
In the meantime, churches can minister to Haitians in their own communities and pray for people in Haiti who are afraid to return to the homes that are still standing because of the danger posed by aftershocks.

In a project led by Florida Baptists, “Buckets of Hope” will be purchased and assembled for Haitian families, providing 5-gallon buckets packed with rice, cooking oil, black beans, flour, sugar, spaghetti noodles and peanut butter.

“Each bucket is estimated to provide enough food for a family of 5-10 people for a week. The contents will cost about $30 to buy, and it will take about $10 to ship one to Haiti,” said Fritz Wilson, disaster relief director for the Florida Baptist Convention.

Details about buying and filling a bucket will be posted to the NAMB Web site. Officials have asked that the buckets be forwarded to Miami, Fla. by March 21 for shipment to Haiti.

Even after Haitians use the supplies, the bucket can serve multiple uses for a family, Wilson pointed out.

“Other relief agencies in Haiti are running a 100-yard dash; we are running a marathon,” Wilson said.