Baptists reach out to Iran with relief

By January 16, 2004

Iran (MNN/BP) — Survivors of a devastating Dec. 26 earthquake in Bam, Iran, are seeing the love of God demonstrated through the work of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from Alabama who rushed to the scene to help.

The suffering of the city’s residents is heartbreaking, volunteers said.

The words “Alabama Disaster Relief” provided the first witness to God’s love as the team began unloading equipment and supplies, said team leader Larry Murphy of Enterprise, Ala.

Iranian helpers saw those words stenciled on the side of supply crates and saw in “Alabama” a combination of words in their own language: “Ala” sounds like their word for God, “Ba” like their word for “with” and “ma” sounds like “us.”

The Iranians translated “Alabama Disaster Relief” to mean “‘God with us’ Disaster Relief.”

“When I heard that, I just jumped and said, ‘Yes!'” Murphy said.

The Alabama team was assigned the lead role in feeding operations in Bam, a key role in the wider relief response mounted by humanitarian organizations from around the world. A Baptist Men’s team from Texas
followed the Alabama volunteers into the heart of the ruined city. Baptist disaster relief volunteers from several other states plan to follow in the weeks to come.

The earthquake killed more than one-third of Bam’s 80,000 inhabitants. The tremor, which registered 6.6 on the Richter scale, reduced the entire city to rubble. Tens of thousands of residents are homeless.

Director of World Hunger and Relief Ministry of the International Mission Board says, “They were able to supply roughly 900 meals a day to some of those who were living in refugee camps outside the city of Bam. And, they had plans to increase that to several thousand meals a day and that’s just going to be dependent upon what kind of needs there are and how many people will come.” He says, “Also they’ve been distributing sleeping bags, blankets and clothing, providing clean water and medical assistance where it’s needed.”

“The devastation here is far worse than I thought,” said Henry Brady, 76, a disaster relief volunteer from Robertsdale, Ala. “Each time I had an opportunity to see the city or a neighborhood, I just broke down and cried. It brings up a lot of emotion of compassion and hurt, and you only wish you could have come sooner to help.”

“We have the luxury of going home in 14 days,” added Bob Ewing, 38, a volunteer from Saraland, Ala. “These people have to be here for the rest of their lives. It breaks your heart. It is impossible for us not to take things for granted until we live in a place like this.”

The Alabama volunteers leaped into action when news of the earthquake broke, said Terry Henderson, disaster relief director for the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. Their team was on the ground in Iran within eight days.

Contributions to relief efforts in Iran through the International Mission Board World Hunger and Relief Ministries may be made att
Contributions also may be mailed to: Iran earthquake response, P.O. Box , 6767, Richmond, VA 23230-0767. Make checks payable to International Mission Board and designate “Iran earthquake – General Relief.”

Every penny of each donation will be used to provide food, shelter, and other immediate needs in the aftermath of the earthquake in Bam, Iran.

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