Baptist Global Response

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Philippines disaster ‘a call to action’

Associated Project: Typhoon Haiyan

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Emily Ortega was swept off her feet when the storm surge from Typhoon Haiyan struck Tacloban, Philippines.

The storm’s 200 mph winds drove waves 20 feet tall into the coastal city. Ortega clung to a post while storm debris hammered her. Hours later, the evacuation center where the pregnant 21-year-old found refuge was filled with cheers as she gave birth to a healthy baby girl -- Bea Joy Sagales -- according to news reports.

With the estimated death toll already soaring past 10,000, the news for most Filipinos in the storm’s path is much more grim, according to a spokesman for Baptists in the Philippines.

“Typhoon Haiyan left the country, leaving behind widespread damage that will take days to assess,” said Gerlie Baltero of the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in an e-mail. “Many are in need of food, water and medicine.”

Southern Baptists and their partners in the Philippines are on the leading edge of the post-typhoon relief effort.

A specialized disaster-relief team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will join others already in the storm zone to assist people with immediate survival needs, said Pat Melancon, managing director of disaster response for Baptist Global Response. That “rapid assistance” team will be followed by a group that will make detailed assessments and formulate a longer-term strategy for helping survivors rebuild their lives.

The leader of the rapid assistance team, SBTC disaster relief director Jim Richardson, asked friends to pray for them as they step into the chaos of the storm zone.

“The team is preparing to assist the churches and brothers and sisters in Christ to share the help, healing, and hope of our Lord Jesus with the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan,” Richardson said. “Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide their thoughts and actions.”

Baptist Global Response has made an initial release of relief funds to humanitarian partners and expects ultimately to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief efforts in three areas: Tacloban, which is the hardest-hit area, and northern Cebu and Panay provinces, said Jeff Palmer, BGR’s executive director. Baptist churches in the Philippines and Filipino teams trained in disaster relief will be working alongside Southern Baptist workers in efforts focusing on immediate needs like water, food, and shelter.

The heartbreaking extent of the damage -- a national state of calamity has been declared -- begs for Christian compassion to be shown to more than 9 million people affected by the storm, Baltero said.

“For Christians, every disaster is a call to action; we are called to help those who are suffering when they need it,” Baltero said. “This is one ministry we cannot turn our backs on.  Our objective is to provide immediate help to the typhoon victims through the [Baptist] conventions in the Visayas and Mindanao.”

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You can assist with the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort by donating to BGR’s Disaster Response Fund. Photo: CC Foter.com NC

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