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Southern Baptists mobilize to aid Typhoon Haiyan survivors

In the wake of one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history, Southern Baptists are mobilizing for a global response to aid survivors. Initial recovery efforts are expected to last at least six months given the wide spread destruction from the massive Nov. 8 storm that struck the southern Philippines.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) state and national leaders were planning and mobilizing for the Typhoon Haiyan response in meetings Nov. 12.

SBDR leaders from the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptists of Texas will comprise the first Rapid Assessment Team that will join Baptist Global Response managing director Pat Melancon in Cebu in less than two days. Melancon said he hopes to have at least two Disaster Assistance Response Teams working in the affected areas by mid-November. The Disaster Assistance Response Teams will include leaders from BGR staff, NAMB staff and the Georgia Baptist Convention.

“Initial reports are that as much as 75 percent of the homes in the coastal cities have been completely destroyed,” said Melancon. The death toll was approaching 2,000 on Nov. 12, but was expected to go higher.

“The Filipino people are sensitive when it comes to the subject of death,” said Melancon. “We will need to be sensitive to their loss.”

The International Mission Board has trained teams on the ground. Melancon said BGR will be assisting them. He said the long-term nature of Southern Baptists’ response makes a huge difference in ministry.

“In just a few weeks all the other aid groups will be gone,” said Melancon. “We can go and we can stay. I expect that this will be a six-month response. There is a lot of lostness in the affected areas. There is great opportunity for the kingdom in our service there.”

IMB personnel plan to travel to Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province and the hardest-hit area soon. A presence in the area, and goodwill toward Americans will help the relief efforts.

“The Filipinos work well with Americans,” said Melancon. “There are cultural differences, but they get along well with Americans.”

Opportunities for trained SBDR volunteers will be available. Volunteers should work through their respective state SBDR organizations to volunteer their service.

 Joe Conway, writer, North American Mission Board