By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
[img_assist|nid=5972|title=Louisiana Baptists are responding to Haitians with their pocketbooks, prayers and relief efforts in a big way.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]STATEWIDE – As of presstime, more than $58,000 in checks has been received by the Louisiana Baptist Convention for Haiti relief.
This doesn’t count the money given with a credit card on the LBC website, or the offerings taken up at the Evangelism Conference, or the money sent directly to the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board or Baptist Global Response – the international arm of Southern Baptists’ Disaster Relief ministry.
“We’re not the fire department,” said Gibbie McMillan, the LBC’s Men’s Ministries director, which includes responsibility for Disaster Relief. “We’re running the marathon. When everybody else is long gone and the smoke is cleared, we’re still going to be there. This is a longterm rebuild effort.”
While McMillan is working with the Florida Baptist Convention, which has a 15-year partnership with Haiti, to establish a long-term, Disaster Relief response for the rebuilding of Haiti after a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, some Louisiana Southern Baptists are making a more immediate response.
At least one Louisiana Southern Baptist already is onsite in Haiti. One ministry in Covington is filling a 40-foot shipping container set to leave port Feb. 20. And one medical missions team has made plans to be there Feb. 20-28.
Toby Ryder, a catalytic church starter in the Lafayette area who ministers to people who often do not feel comfortable in a traditional church setting, left Jan. 25 to help a friend at an orphanage that has received at least 200 children orphaned because of the earthquake.
The orphanage is in the countryside, away from Port-au-Prince. Ryder expects to be there for eight days, according to his Facebook.
Johnny Huffman, a member with his wife Sissie at New Zion Baptist Church in Covington, heads Fairhaven Ministries, which includes a children’s home that was started in 1966 and an ongoing multi-faceted ministry in Romania. In addition, he has filled nearly 70 shipping containers and sent them to various areas of need. Read more about him in an upcoming issue of the Baptist Message.
Huffman is filling another 40x8x9-foot shipping container, this time for an orphanage in Haiti that he has connections with.
“I already have a trucker ready for when it enters the port of Caucedas, [in the Dominican Republic] to take it to the orphanage in Haiti,” Huffman wrote in an email to the Message. “I am also prepared to hire a security contingent, if necessary, once it enters Haiti, to do our best to see that all of the goods are safely delivered to the Pastor Jean. A lot of the goods will be for the children there in the orphanage, and for rebuilding, but there will also be a lot of supplies that will be shared with others.”
Among items needed: cooking utensils, rice, beans, cooking oil, sheets, blankets, tarps, tents, personal care items and over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol. Drop-off points have been set up at various locations in Louisiana and surrounding states, including Hebron Baptist Church in Bush, La. Go towww.baptistmessage.com for complete lists of requested supplies and drop-off points.
Dwayne Rogers, Chief of Security at Louisiana College, put together a 14-person medical missions team to staff a ward at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Jimani, Dominican Republic. It’s a team of medical professionals from across the state, to be sponsored by Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, where Rogers is a member.
Rogers previously ministered after the 2005 tsunami and other disasters.
“It always amazes me how God puts teams such as this together,” Rogers said. “I had initially mentioned it on Facebook ….
“That area that we are going to was not affected by the earthquake, but it is right at the Haitian border, where a lot of the injured go,” Rogers continued. “There is a large need in Jimani.”
Louisiana’s official response, McMillan said, is to work with and through the Florida Baptist Convention, which has a 15-year partnership with Haitian Baptists and employs seven indigenous directors of mission and a mission coordinator for the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’ Haiti (CMBH). Fifteen Florida Baptist employees work and live in the Convention’s guest/mission house, located about 17 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. During the past 15 years of the partnership, Florida Baptists have started 890 churches, including 95 new churches in 2009.
“We’re networking our efforts with Florida’s, because they’ve been there 15 years,” McMillan said. “It’s what we’d want if Florida came to help us after a major disaster.”
In the past, the Florida Baptist Convention provided beans and rice to the Haitians after the impoverished country endured hurricanes, floods and civil unrest. This time, a three-prong response effort is underway. The primary concern is the feeding and other humanitarian needs, such as medical supplies. Phase two is assessing the damage of church facilities and how the pastors have fared, and phase three will be an effort to rebuild the churches.
“This is a huge disaster that will require years of attention,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. “Our heart is for the long-term, transformational impact after basic needs are met.
“We maximize our impact by good assessment, good local partnerships, and by bringing a spiritual component and biblical worldview into the response,” Palmer continued.
With a plan in place, volunteers were to be able to enter Haiti as early as Jan. 25 to begin clean-up, distribution of supplies, temporary and permanent reconstruction, medical care and counseling, Palmer said. Later, educational and microenterprise teams will be needed to help the Haitian people resume their lives and work.
Southern Baptists are uniquely equipped to offer relief at this time, Palmer said.
“We have people who care and are willing to go and become personally involved in the lives of those affected and recovering, pre-existing people on the ground who allow us to give a quick response, a mechanism to release funds and resources to an event like this quickly, and a heart for ministering to the spiritual needs that arise,” Palmer said.
Mickey Caison, NAMB’s adult volunteer mobilization team leader, said only fully trained, experienced disaster relief volunteers in excellent health will be enlisted in the initial disaster relief response plan.
“Volunteers must be in extremely good health because there will be hardship,” Caison said. “We don’t know what types of living conditions will exist for the time being.”
In the Haiti update sent out Jan. 22 by NAMB to state DR directors, it was reiterated that Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers “ARE NOT” first responders.
In the well-organized machinery that has become the face of America’s response to disasters, Southern Baptists are in the second wave of response. This delay often gives enough time to have passed that a disaster victim would be more apt to respond to hearing of God’s love, McMillan said.
“What we’re trying to do is to strengthen the nearly 900 churches and minister through them,” McMillan said. He was referring to NAMB and BGR leaders when he added, “We’re putting together now an incident command team in Port-au-Prince to work with our partners – the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse and other non-governmental organizations.”
The Jan. 22 briefing indicated traffic was extremely heavy, including a three-hour drive to travel seven miles in Port-au-Prince.
“The government has asked that no mission teams be deployed to Port-au-Prince,” according to the brief. “There is no housing, electricity, fuel or reliable source for food and water, and no public restroom facilities. … Two church groups have become victims in PP due to lack of food, transportation and housing.”
The two groups were confined to the airport.
“Estimated first deployment is 90-120 days out,” the brief continued. “Spiritual preparation will be necessary. Long-term groups will include clean up, rebuild, restoration, evangelism and church planting.”
As is usual for DR volunteers, they need to provide their own airfare to the island nation in the Caribbean.
“I’ve been to Haiti six times,” McMillan said. “We built Nerjaia Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince. It was three stories high, a school and a church. The word I got is that it’s flat on the ground.” He shook his head in frustration at the wasted effort caused by a lack of building codes that would ensure better construction.
“The sights, sounds and the smell of death are permeating the city,” according to the brief. “Strong spiritual preparation is necessary.”
For more coverage of Louisiana’s and Southern Baptists’ response to Haiti disaster relief, see LBC Live in this issue, and the www.lbc.org website. The Baptist Message will post updates as often as reports are made available, to its website – www.baptistmessage.com – including on-site coverage by former intern Sarah Hudson Feb. 20-28, and other Baptist Press coverage.
Baptist Press contributed to this report.