Long-term is about survival now; Baptist groups seek to meet holistic needs.

By September 5, 2005

USA (MNN) — The devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina across the Gulf States is still being reckoned with as thousands are feared dead and one million could become homeless. More than five million people are without power, and it could be weeks or months before power is fully restored in some areas.

The Baptist World Alliance went into action immediately, making emergency plans and deploying relief teams to go in and meet needs there. Paul Montacute with Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of BWA, says the bulk of their work right now is raising money to provide supplies and support for those doing the work.

“The people who managed to get out of the major disaster areas, either just before the hurricane hit or afterwards, they moved north, and so that is where they’re now meeting the different relief teams who are there trying to provide help for them. But the biggest dilemma is going to be housing people. Where are this enormous number of people going to stay for a matter of weeks and a matter of months? And maybe churches have something which we need to face up to,” says Montacute.

It’s been an enormous tragedy that continues to be felt, but Montacute says it’s an open door to minister to others: “I think that this tragedy does give Christians in North America tremendous opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with people, in very tangible and very practical ways by providing clean water, by providing food, by providing shelter. That’s what I think Christ would want us to do.”

Montacute says that BWA is thinking both immediate and future needs, “Long-term is survival. Long-term, you know, starts now and continues for a long time. And it will be a long time, and of course it’s churches and faith communities who’ve been in that situation. Many of them have experienced hurricanes in the past, but obviously nothing like this. And it’s those faith communities people will be looking to to help them.”

“It has been interesting just as you talk with family members and colleagues and people you meet up with. They suddenly realize that some of the horrific pictures they’ve seen on the television screen from overseas, like the tsunami earlier this year, are now actually happening here in their own country, and that now we have to face up to many of the challenges which people in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and Thailand and India had to face up (to) in the past,” says Montacute.

Pray for those ministering in the midst of this crisis. To help BWA, click on the highlighted link above for contact information.

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