NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Southern Baptist assessment team is working out logistics for a trip into Haiti early the week of Jan. 18, to connect with Haitian Baptist leaders and craft plans for disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that struck the island Jan. 12.
North Carolina Baptists dispatched a small team by private plane to Haiti Jan. 14 to offer immediate assistance and the first efforts at assessing near term needs.
The international community is rallying to meet urgent needs – from food, water and medical services to transportation and security, according to news reports. Search and rescue teams began combing the massive amount of rubble in the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. Military teams from other countries began establishing communications, transport and security services – critical needs in a country where government offices and basic infrastructure were destroyed by the largest earthquake in 200 years.
The death toll among the city’s 3 million inhabitants could top 100,000, Haiti’s prime minister told reporters Jan. 13.
Serious security concerns could emerge as people become more desperate for food and water in areas where police and military control has not been established, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response. The capital’s main prison also collapsed in the earthquake, raising the prospect of criminals escaping into the city. As a result, near-term attempts to travel to the country would be ill-advised.
The five-member assessment team will evaluate ministry needs like rescue operations, medical services and shelter, as well as logistical concerns like transportation and security, Brown said. A separate Florida Baptist disaster relief team is planning its own assessment trip for the weekend and the two teams will collaborate in their reporting to the national Southern Baptist disaster relief network. The teams also will report back on long-term strategies to help Haitians rebuild their lives.
“There are two Baptist conventions in Haiti and the Florida Baptist Convention has historically partnered with one convention while the International Mission Board has partnered with the other,” Brown said. “We will combine our findings to draft the overall strategy.”
The Southern Baptist assessment team will be composed of representatives from Baptist Global Response, North American Mission Board and disaster relief specialists from Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina, Brown said.
Those who can provide funds for relief efforts in Haiti, a nation racked for years by chaos and non-functioning government services and coordination, can make a check designated for Haiti disaster relief payable to NC Baptist Men and mail it to NC Baptist Men, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
Apart from donating to the disaster relief fund, concerned individuals can help greatly by joining in focused prayer for Haiti’s 9 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, said David Brown, who with his wife, Jo, directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas.
“We want to encourage Christians to focus their prayers on several points,” David Brown said. “Please pray for those who have been affected by the quake – people who are trapped in rubble or homeless, those who are hungry or injured or traumatized. Pray for all those who are involved in the relief effort, that the Lord would give them strength to deal with the awful conditions they are facing. And pray for those who are trying to organize people and resources to assist with the relief efforts. Pray that God would stir up his people to respond with the love of Christ to help people in desperate need.”