Easing the anguish goal of relief teams
Melanie and Jake Morris, both psychology professors at Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, Tenn., are part of a team to Sri Lanka. Both are trained in “critical incidents stress debriefing” — a term which easily describes the natural disaster that shook southern Asia Dec. 26.
Meeting the needs of tsunami victims — material and spiritual — is a global effort for churches of Christ. A team of more than 40 medical workers from churches in the Philippines plans to travel to southeastern India, where the waves injured thousands, said missionary Salvador Cariaga. Church member Chito Cusi heads the medical ministry, MARCH for Christ.
On Jan. 14 Cariaga told the Chronicle that the team was experiencing difficulty gaining permission to enter India, and would consider traveling to Sri Lanka instead unless the situation changed.
Multiple relief ministries in the United States are distributing aid to the affected countries. Bill McDonough, of Little Rock, Ark.-based Partners in Progress, said that churches in Germany were among the first to inquire about ways they could help. Churches in Belgium, France and the Netherlands also contacted the ministry.
“(Churches) are responding and have already sent money,” McDonough said. “To be most effective, we need to think about the long-term response. After the initial, large responses – government monies, Red Cross, other groups – then people will have a lot of needs, and each church can respond to those needs.”
Representatives of relief ministries met during the annual Medical Missions Conference in Dallas in early January to share field reports and plan effective aid distribution. Workers with Healing Hands International (HHI), Nashville, Tenn., continue to circulate e-mail among responding ministries with updates from the affected regions.
“We’ve all been touched by this tremendous disaster,” said HHI President Randy Steger. Relief ministries’ cooperative goal is to help the affected people recover and, “Lord willing, to open hearts to the good news of the gospel,” Steger said.
Several workers at the Dallas conference noted that many of the affected regions are predominantly Islamic, and that the disaster presents the best opportunity in hundreds of years to make a positive impact on the Muslim world.
But relief workers also noted the need for caution — not only when working in Muslim areas, but when dealing with requests for aid from affected regions. Missionaries in India said that con artists may attempt to take advantage of the large amounts of Western money flowing into the region.
Larry Henderson agreed. The former missionary to Thailand, currently coordinating mission teams for Asia at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, said that relief efforts should focus on regions where local churches and missionaries can make a direct, long-term impact.
“So, instead of trying to compete, (we need to) focus on churches, missionaries, etc., and use them,” Henderson said. “We want to do the work that will endure … after the agencies have gone home.”
Additional reporting: Joy McMillon, Lindy Adams.