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« on: January 04, 2005, 01:20:11 AM »

Ministries Deal with Massive Nature of South Asia Disaster

by Allie Martin and Jody Brown
January 3, 2005

(AgapePress) - With tens of thousands of lives confirmed lost to the tidal waves that struck South Asia the day after Christmas, many Christian organizations continue to strive to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those now struggling for survival in the aftermath.

A spokesman with Food for the Hungry says that ministry is trying to find the most effective ways to meet short- and long-term needs of survivors of the tsunami. The Phoenix-based ministry is already working with churches in Thailand to distribute food and other basic necessities. Beth Allen, a spokesperson for Food for the Hungry, says there are many challenges because of the scale of the disaster.

"When something is this massive, we have to spend a lot of time just strategizing," Allen explains, adding that dealing with the amount of information coming in is "like trying to drink water from a fire plug. So it's very difficult to try to figure out where God wants us to go and what God wants us to do."

With an office in Bangkok and workers throughout Thailand, Food for the Hungry was able to quickly dispatch relief workers to coastal areas that were walloped by the tsunami. The first goal of relief efforts, says Allen, is to meet people's basic needs.

"We're concerned about how we can use this opportunity to minister to those people," she says. "Whatever their religious background is, you would want to help them no matter what -- and to provide any kind of assistance we can in this time, emotional as well as physical."

Allen says her group's relief efforts could soon spread to other countries affected by the tidal waves, which were spawned by a massive 9.0 earthquake just off the coast of Sumatra.

Samaritan's Purse, Lutheran World Relief
Samaritan's Purse, based in North Carolina, dispatched emergency teams that include doctors and workers who have years of experience in international emergencies. A member of one of those teams describes the island nation of Sri Lanka, just off the southern tip of India, as being "awash in garbage, debris, carcasses, bodies, and grief." Darren Tosh adds that "the tsunami may be over, but the disaster is just beginning."

Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, says the South Asia tsunami "may be the worst disaster of our lifetimes." As Christians, he says, "our hearts are broken, and we want to do all we can to help and comfort the people who are suffering and grieving."

Meanwhile, pledges totaling $3 million have spurred efforts by Lutheran World Relief for relief support in the region. According to a press statement from LWR, the funding will be used to provide immediate relief in the form of clean water, food, shelter, and basic supplies. In addition, the money will be put toward repairing and rebuilding clinics, schools, and community centers, as well as toward counseling for survivors dealing with the loss of loved ones.

LWR says it hopes to raise between $5 million and $10 million for its work in South Asia. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans made the $3 million contribution in the form of a $1 million immediate gift and an additional $2 million challenge grant. LWR president Kathryn Wolford says she was "humbled, but not surprised" by the generosity and stewardship of Thrivent Financial.

"They enable Lutherans to demonstrate their care and concern for others, and now that involvement extends to Lutherans and other brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia," Wolford says.


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