Christians are reaching out to helps flood victims in Suriname

By May 26, 2006

Surinam (MNN) — Days of torrential rains swamped Suriname’s remote rainforest last week, forcing an estimated 22,000 people from their homes and severely affecting another 15,000, according to a United Nations disaster assessment and coordination team. At their height, floodwaters inundated more than 10,000 to 15,500 square miles as rivers rose to levels not seen in recent memory.

Now, Aukan villagers in the South American country will be getting help and lots of it, according to the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, they’re playing a critical role in what the Surinam government is calling an unprecedented crisis.

Rice, anti-malaria drugs, gasoline and hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief funds are pouring into the country’s waterlogged interior.

Some 60 percent of the population along the Tapanahoni River alone was displaced by the flooding, including people evacuated from four island villages near the home of IMB missionaries Charles and Brittany Shirey.

The Shireys run a radio ministry to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Aukaners. The program is called Radio Paakati – 88.3 FM. Since the flood, however, the station has been pulling double duty, broadcasting both Bible stories and key information; news and vital information about the disaster.

Besides rallying prayer, the station has also been able to coordinate relief efforts. The radio station tells people where to get food, tips for combating water borne illnesses and broadcats live interviews with aid groups and government officials work in the area.

Most importantly, the Bible stories and Christian music the station plays have not stopped either.

Though its Gospel message has recently met resistance from a few Aukan leaders, the station’s service during the flood has only strengthened its standing in the community.

The IMB has initially released $22,000 to airlift thousands of food packets and other aid material to dozens of small airstrips scattered throughout the interior. The money is also being used to purchase gasoline. The relief is giving the local missionaries credibility with villagers.

Funding is needed to help as more heavy rain is expected. IMB workers say God is using the flood to soften people’s hearts to the Gospel, as more people are asking questions about God and the Bible.

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