Monday, October 17, 2005

Extraordinary American Baptist Generosity Shown in Hurricane Relief Funding and Volunteers

American Baptist News Service (Valley Forge, Pa. 10/17/05)--

Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) following hurricanes Katrina and Rita topped $1.85 million as of Sept. 30, with more funds on the way from churches and regions. Ken George, National Ministries’ national coordinator for Intercultural Ministries, Direct Human Services, says this figure marks a quick, generous response that outpaces any previous contributions to disaster relief in both size and timing.

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of American Baptists, George reports several disbursements, now totaling $163,500.

George’s office just released $50,000 in OGHS-designated funds to Church World Service (CWS), earmarked for relocating hurricane survivors through CWS’s Immigration and Refugee program in collaboration with partner denominations.

American Baptist Churches of the West (ABCW) received $40,000, in addition to a previous grant of $20,000, in designated OGHS funds to assist survivors relocating to California. African American church members there lost many relatives, but funding enables churches across ethnicities — Asian, Hispanic and Euro-American — to continue helping families with food, housing and other material support. Several churches have taken in families with a one-year commitment to provide rent and necessities.

In other major efforts, one region sought to multiply its help to Katrina survivors by adopting an entire town. American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky visited the disaster area and adopted Pass Christian, Miss., located 20 miles west of Biloxi on the Gulf Coast, with a population of 7,500. Indiana and Kentucky region volunteers coordinate a distribution center in the town, sorting truckloads of food and sundries. Since the end of September work teams arrive weekly in Pass Christian for debris cleanup, building repairs and construction.

Volunteers traveling to Wiggins, Miss., assisted with a month-long debris cleanup, coordinated through the American Baptist Men’s disaster relief ministry, along with 100 other relief agencies. An impoverished area with high unemployment, Wiggins was nearly in the eye of the storm’s path. As many as 75 American Baptist men from a dozen regions cleared downed trees from yards and blocked driveways for people lacking resources for the work. Within one month, 397 volunteers served 235 clients, working 16,404 total hours. More groups are expected later in the year and into 2006.

Previously, funding went to CWS for recovery kits, to a church in Louisiana for its meal program and to ABCW for churches adopting families. Two grants went through American Baptist Churches of the South, one to a church in Atlanta, Ga., ministering to survivors and the other to a church in Mobile, Ala., that was flooded and did not have insurance coverage for contents. Companis, a social services ministry of First Baptist Seattle, Wash., received funding to support a volunteer it sent to the Greater Houston area. The volunteer directs Neighbor to Neighbor, a new program of Interfaith Ministries that matches hurricane survivors with churches or individuals offering housing.

American Baptists wishing to support the continuing hurricane relief and recovery efforts can do so through their church’s monthly report of mission support, designating contributions “OGHS–Hurricane Katrina/Rita.” For online contributions visit and click on “Give Now.”

Even in the midst of controversy, good things happen through Christian bodies, including the ABCUSA. Criticism of attacks on biblical authority, heresy, and bullying tactics should not cause us to overlook and appreciate the many good works done "in the name of Jesus."

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