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Relief flexibility the key to meeting crisis needs

By September 1, 2010

Pakistan (MNN ) — Flood waters in Pakistan are beginning to
recede in parts of the south, as the country struggles to provide desperately-needed aid to millions across the country.

An area roughly the size of the state of Mississippi was underwater,
and as the buildings re-emerged, survivors who were returning home found
destroyed and damaged homes and swamped streets. Sodden mud proved to be another issue even as
aid arrived. 

An
Operation Mobilization team was on the scene early with
help. Ray Cooper with OM wrote, "Most of the houses are
very badly damaged, and it is dangerous to live in them because the walls are
cracked. We visited a school where around 250 families have been living for the
last few days."

Cooper says their teams began a distribution but saw
another issue that would make what they were handing out nearly useless. "People have no firewood to cook with.
We've been giving out a food packet containing flour, sugar, cooking oil and lentils,
but there were people who got the food packet and they couldn't cook." 

So the team adjusted. Cooper says, "[They] hired a professional cook to do two big pots of
food a day," which fed those 250 families.   

Shoes and clothing emerged as another need. "People have been desperate for clothing.
Many of these people have had to flee their villages and their homes with just
the clothes on their backs. " 

When washday comes, there are no spare clothes to wear while
the clean ones dry. Again, Cooper says, "The teams have adjusted. When possible, they've been able to bring some shoes
and clothing, as well."

The teams don't hide their motivation when they arrive. "These are Pakistani Christians who are very
openly doing this relief in the name of Christ, saying, ‘We're doing this as
Christians. We just want to love you as Christians, and we're bringing this
relief to you as Christians.'" 

Their example counters the reports that Taliban have been
exchanging aid in return for joining the militant group.  It also increases the risk the believers
undertake as they go out with the supplies.  
That's especially true during Ramadan.  It is illegal to distribute food between dawn
and dusk, so any relief work must be done at night.

What they have found is that help, at any time, is welcome
in a crisis. It builds bridges with
people who might have been hostile at one time. "The response has been one of surprise and thankfulness from Muslims,"
Cooper explains.
"I think they've been surprised that Christians, who are actually
somewhat discriminated against in their own country, have been bringing
them relief supplies."

Cooper says this proved true during a recent distribution. "They
went to a mosque, and they went to the religious leader and said ‘Hey, we're
bringing these supplies as Christians. Do you want them?' And he said, ‘Please, we need them. Thank you
very much.‘ The Muslims down the street
were taking advantage of the situation." 

Pray that many long-term connections will be built as OM
Pakistan continues to serve their neighbors during this time. Pray for many
workers to come alongside, as the scope of this tragedy continues to grow. The recovery will be long. 

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