On Jan. 12, an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the already very poor country of Haiti. Hundreds died and many more still face life altering physical infirmities. The capital city was basically flattened, including the capitol building itself. This tiny country became the focus of the world. The U.S., as always, mobilized to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. Millions of dollars were raised and thousands of volunteers rose to meet the immediacy and urgency of the event.
Southern Baptists were at the forefront of the relief effort. Florida Baptists for many years have had a relationship with the Baptists of Haiti, helping to plant more than 900 churches there. The Florida Baptist Convention was able to direct the effort and see that Southern Baptists were strategic in everything they did.
It was no surprise that without any promotion, Oklahoma Baptists responded immediately to the need. Our churches and individual Oklahoma Baptists gave $602,400 to the relief effort. Sam Porter, head of the BGCO’s disaster relief volunteers, was among the Southern Baptist leaders directing the efforts. He called upon our trained workers (more than 5,000 strong) to help meet immediate needs and then focus on rebuilding.
Sam has led Oklahoma volunteers to take a very strategic and measured approach. Their first goal was to provide pure drinking water. At this writing, our teams have placed 59 pumps in wells at Haitian Baptist churches in the affected area. This strategy makes each church a focal point for meeting the needs of the community; even more significantly, it opens doors to share the Good News of Christ.
Oklahoma Baptist medical teams have been there since the early days of the tragedy, ministering to the physical needs of multiplied thousands. Our medical personnel are very faithful and generous with their time. Without question, they are the loving hands of Jesus as they provide a healing touch to hurting people all over the world.
You can only imagine the number of churches that were destroyed. Oklahoma Baptists have already helped to rebuild three churches, and we continue to assist our Baptist brothers to restore their places of worship.
You are familiar with the pictures of thousands of Haitians living in makeshift tents, which provide very primitive protection for the masses managing to survive in those temporary neighborhoods. These impoverished people had very little to begin with, and nearly everything they possessed was destroyed.
Our disaster relief teams have developed small houses that can be constructed for $2,000 each. Our goal is to build 100 by spring, providing 100 families with a sturdy roof over their heads.
I give thanks to God for your generosity both in giving and going. I have watched through the years as Oklahoma Baptist churches and Sunday School classes respond to every tragedy with grace, love and a generous spirit. Your commitment to the Gospel is clear. You are always willing to alleviate pain and suffering whenever the challenge is presented.
The work in Haiti will be long and difficult. The devastation is beyond description. We will be sending teams to labor alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters for many months into the future. In every case we are honored to be the hands and feet of Jesus, demonstrating His love to the people of this small, poverty-stricken nation. At the same time we are privileged to be His voice, declaring the Good News that heals broken hearts and turns paupers into children of the King of kings.