Sunday, March 27, 2011

North American Mission Board Update: Disaster Relief

Disaster Relief Update

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me. For whatever was written before was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope. Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice," Romans 15:1-6 (HCSB).

It has been one week since the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. These tragic events have been on the hearts and minds of all Americans. Many have watched countless hours of news coverage. Southern Baptists are committed to praying for the people of Japan and those aiding the survivors (especially the Southern Baptist missionaries and responders). As Paul exhorted the church in Rome, “we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.” Southern Baptists must continue to support and respond to needs with a “united mind and voice.”
The International Mission Board (IMB), Baptist Global Response (BGR) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) have been engaged from the beginning in seeking ways to provide help, healing and hope to Japan. IMB missionaries and families are feeling the fatigue of trying to provide ministry to the people God has called them to serve. They have been both victims and responders. BGR had a two person initial response team on the ground to begin the assessment process within the first 24 hours. NAMB has been communicating with BGR and providing coordination with the state conventions in the disaster relief network.
As you can imagine, there are a multitude of obstacles to this complex response. Distance, the magnitude of the disaster, continuous aftershocks, winter weather, radiation leakage, and lack of necessary supplies like fuel make every response effort from the military to non-governmental agencies difficult. In light of these difficulties Southern Baptists are working hard to ensure our response is focused, well planned and decisive. The situation on the ground is fluid with frequent interruptions and changes.
Below are some excerpts from a report from the initial assessment team. These are their thoughts on the present situation and how Southern Baptists may be able to respond.
RadiationAlthough there is nothing we will be able to do to mitigate or fix this problem, there may be opportunities that arise to help people. Until there is improvement in the situation, this is not likely to be a viable response.
TsunamiThe tsunami area is off limits until the radiation issues begin to resolve and the government allows more access. Furthermore, attempts to do much there will be hampered by logistical problems associated with obtaining supplies and fuel. What exists will be in short supply as the population seeks to obtain and store these items and as relief organizations compete to obtain these items. Response to these areas will have to wait at least until the evacuation orders from the government are lifted.
Earthquake ZonesIn the short term it will be the areas not affected by the tsunami where the most viable opportunities to respond can be identified. However, some of the same logistical problems exist: lack of access to supplies and lack of fuel. There are openings for a response however. Some missionaries have already found places of ministry working  alongside neighbors in mudding out around their homes. The needs here are great. Recovery will take years. A response here will require significant logistical planning to overcome the issues listed above.
An assessment and initial response team comprised of Pat Melancon and Ben Wolfe with BGR; John Hayes, Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief; and Eddie Pettit, South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief, will arrive in Japan on Tuesday, March 22. They will continue to look for ministry opportunities and work to establish an Incident Command System that will allow SBDR to begin to respond with Baptists and other partners in the country.
The people of Japan have many needs today and many of these needs will continue for a long time. Southern Baptists are encouraged to continue to pray, and provide financial support that our IMB missionaries, Japanese Baptists, BGR and SBDR representatives can use to minister to the people of Japan. Pray for the assessment and initial response team as they make plans and preparations. Wait patiently and prayerfully for God's direction as He opens other avenues of ministry.
Carlton Walker, an International Mission Board missionary in Narashino City, Chiba, says that the people of Japan need a strong east wind to protect the population from harm. He also urges Christians to pray for the “wind” of the Holy Spirit to “blow with great power over this land and create a spiritual revival that will remake Japan from the inside out.”  Read more in the Missionary Blog.
Read today's update from Baptist Global Response.

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