Death, severe injury, hunger and exposure devastated the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the calamitous earthquake that struck the small, poor, struggling island country Jan. 12. As the world tried to respond to the overwhelming needs, Southern Baptists—state convention disaster relief teams—were at the forefront of relief efforts. Volunteers from several state conventions immediately sprang into action upon learning of the catastrophe, and they remain engaged in the effort to rebuild this hurting country.
Many do not realize that the Florida Baptist Convention orchestrated and coordinated the work, and continues to do so today, because Haiti is like an association within that convention. Florida Baptists have planted churches, trained leaders and invested in Haiti for years.
At a meeting earlier this month, John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, thanked his counterparts for the extraordinary work done by the disaster relief teams. Speaking of the spiritual results of our efforts, he shared that since the earthquake in January, there have been 152,000 professions of faith and 125 new churches started in Haiti. Remarkable! Praise the Lord!
The efforts of Oklahoma Baptists serving beside other state convention disaster relief teams are praiseworthy. As of Sept. 20, we have placed pumps in 80 water wells—six at orphanages and the rest at churches and pastors’ homes to provide water for the surrounding communities. Each week, 80,000 people utilize the water wells provided by Oklahoma Baptists.
Our teams helped to rebuild one church that was left in shambles, and they are on target to restore two more. They have adapted a home building plan that has allowed us to build a minimum of three concrete block homes each week. We anticipate that by the end of the year, Oklahoma Baptists will have built between 60 to 70 permanent homes for families in Haiti.
All of this has been accomplished for three reasons. First, Oklahoma Baptists support the work of disaster relief through giving to the State Missions Offering and the Cooperative Program. Because of these gifts, 100 percent of every dollar given to assist people during a disaster is spent to meet needs. No administrative or fundraising costs are deducted. That is something no other relief organization can say. Oklahoma Baptists gave more than $602,000 in response to the Haiti disaster, and they can be assured that every penny is used to assist Haiti.
Second, trained volunteers give of their time and resources to go and serve in the wake of disasters like that in Haiti. Our local associations have been very active in developing disaster relief teams. Many have purchased equipment used to address these tragic events. When disaster strikes in the U.S., a BGCO semitrailer truck is ready to be deployed. Thousands of meals a day can be prepared and served from that trailer. A shower trailer and a chain saw unit are also available to respond quickly. BGCO disaster relief teams have served all over the U.S.A. and the world to relieve suffering and meet needs.
Third, disaster relief, while coordinated through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), is the work of state conventions. Sam Porter and his counterparts around the United States recruit and train volunteers. State conventions serve cooperating local churches and associations as the conduit through which money is channeled and volunteers respond to disasters. Oklahoma now has more than 5,000 trained volunteers.
One great difference of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief from other organizations is the spiritual dynamic. Others do great work in meeting humanitarian needs. Southern Baptists operate under the biblical principle that we have not completed our service to people by giving a cup of water and piece of bread. While never forcing the Gospel, we always look for opportunities to share the Good News. It is for this reason that the results of our relief efforts in Haiti cannot be expressed or described without telling of the tens of thousands whose eternity—not just their lives—has been changed.
Thank you, Oklahoma Baptists, for your generosity in giving and going.