SBTC team helping assess Filipino needs

CEBU, Philippines—A specialized disaster relief team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is in Cebu, Philippines helping Baptist Global Response assess needs following Typhoon Haiyan. 

The SBTC team is serving alongside local churches, Filipino nationals and fellow Baptist Global Response workers following Haiyan’s devastation, which has affected 9 million people, left an estimated 660,000 homeless and left at least 1,700 dead, according to the United Nations. The death toll was expected to rise much higher. 

More volunteer teams will likely mobilize following initial assessments, SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said. Updates on mobilization needs will be posted periodically at sbtexas.com/dr

International Mission Board personnel have met to discuss relief plans and will travel into disaster-stricken areas on several islands to assess needs and distribute food and water. 

Pat Melancon, managing director of disaster response and management for Baptist Global Response, said the “rapid assistance” team from the SBTC will be followed by a group that will make detailed assessments and formulate a longer-term strategy for helping survivors rebuild their lives. 

In Baptist Press on Tuesday (Nov. 10), Richardson asked Baptists to pray for them as they step into the chaos of the storm zone. 

“The team is preparing to assist the churches and brothers and sisters in Christ to share the help, healing and hope of our Lord Jesus with the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan,” Richardson said. “Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide their thoughts and actions.” 

Baptist Global Response has released an initial $15,000 in relief funds to humanitarian partners who are focusing their efforts on three areas: Tacloban, which is the hardest-hit area, and northern Cebu and Panay provinces, said Jeff Palmer, BGR’s executive director. Baptist churches in the Philippines and Filipino teams trained in disaster relief will be working alongside Southern Baptist workers in efforts focusing on immediate needs such as water, food and shelter. 

The extent of the damage–a national state of calamity has been declared–begs for Christian compassion to be shown to more than 9 million people affected by the typhoon, Baltero said. 

“For Christians, every disaster is a call to action; we are called to help those who are suffering when they need it,” Baltero said. “This is one ministry we cannot turn our backs on.” 

According to BP, IMB representative Mark Moses met with key Filipino leaders on the island of Panay and discussed relief plans there. 

Food and clean water are urgent needs in many remote areas of Panay. 

Moses purchased bags of rice and canned goods using relief funds donated by Southern Baptists. Moses and his team plan to pack the goods into family sized portions. 

“Currently, we still have no communications with these areas; electrical lines and communication towers are still down,” Moses said on Monday. “Hopefully by tomorrow, some roads will be passable so we can reach them.” 

Moses said after assessments are completed, relief funds would be used to help displaced Filipinos rebuild their homes. Funds also will be used to purchase basic medicine. 

Texan Staff & Baptist Press
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