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Baptists Commit Relief Aid to Earthquake-Stricken Haiti


January 13, 2010 | bpfna

by Bob Allen
Associated Baptist Press

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptist World Aid has pledged $20,000 in emergency funds for earthquake-stricken Haiti, the head of the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance said Jan. 13.

A United Nations official said mid-morning Jan. 13 that the quake -- which initial estimates put at 7.0 in magnitude and which struck the evening of Jan. 12 -- likely had killed thousands of Haitians.

BWAid director Paul Montacute said grants of $10,000 each were committed to the Baptist Convention of Haiti, a group of 110 churches and 82,000 members established in 1964, and the Haiti Baptist Mission, a network of 330 churches and schools founded in 1943.

Montacute said BWAid will be launching an appeal for additional funds and expected to have more information later in the day. "We must make a generous response to this massive catastrophe," Montacute said.

Montacute said Baptist relief agencies from North America and around the world are considering how best to help. He said two representatives of BWAid's Rescue 24 team of first responders were en route to Haiti from Hungary, where they planned to link up with North Carolina Baptist Men.

BPFNA members Nancy and Steve James, field personnel jointly appointed to Haiti by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches USA, were in the United States when the temblor hit. American Baptist International Ministries said the couple were driving from a conference in North Carolina to Florida and planned to catch a Missionary Flights International flight into Haiti on Jan. 14.

The missionaries live about 100 miles from the quake's epicenter, which was just a few miles from the heavily populated capital city of Port-au-Prince. A friend watching their house said there did not appear to by any major damage nearby.
That's a far different scene from Port-au-Prince, where multiple news reports indicated most government buildings, the Catholic cathedral and a hospital were destroyed in the worst earthquake to strike Haiti in 200 years.

The Red Cross estimated that 3 million people were affected by the earthquake, roughly one in three Haitians. The Caribbean nation has been afflicted by extreme poverty and political instability for decades, and poor infrastructure and virtually non-existent building standards likely worsened the disaster's impact.

Just over a year ago, Haiti was battered by a series of four destructive hurricanes in three weeks.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. ABP Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief Robert Marus contributed to this story.

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