By / Feb 24

On this episode, Brent Leatherwood and Lindsay Nicolet discuss the SBC Executive Committee meeting and several noteworthy developments, including the “Ministry Check” website and six churches deemed not in friendly cooperation with the SBC. They also reflected on the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. 

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By / Feb 24

Exactly one year ago, I was about to deliver remarks to a Southern Baptist meeting, when the news alerts lit up my phone. The long-predicted Russian invasion of Ukraine had commenced. Russian troops had initiated a new incursion deep into Ukraine’s heartland.

After I announced the development to the room, you could sense the audience was contemplating what this might mean for our nation, as well as what it meant for missionaries serving there and our Baptist national partners on the ground.

Points of clarity 

Twelve months later, many of those questions remain, though we do have clarity on several fronts. 

First, Ukrainians have made a valiant stand against their Russian aggressors. While they have sustained a barrage of attacks that have taken numerous innocent lives and demolished infrastructure throughout their country, many analysts have said the Russian military has taken far greater losses. Backed by an impressive array of support from America and European allies, Ukraine has been able to beat back an initial threat to its capital, Kyiv, and has even  retaken ground lost in its east. Few would have predicted this kind of result a year into the conflict.

Secondly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been engaged from both a ministry and advocacy standpoint throughout the year. Send Relief, the SBC’s compassion ministry, jumped into action to help Ukranians who flooded across national borders, fleeing from the war zone. They provided basic necessities and connected them with partners who could provide shelter. Estimates from Send Relief put the number of displaced Ukrainians around 15 million—the largest such crisis in Europe in generations. To meet the demand, Southern Baptists and our partners have given over $12 million through Send Relief.

Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, has made several trips to the region during the war. He’s visited Baptist churches in Romania and met with our missionaries who have offered input about what support is needed. In the U.S., the ERLC has advocated for Ukrainian refugees before the federal government to ensure they receive the support and asylum they need from the horrors back at home.

None of this response should be surprising. Baptists have long felt a calling to bring the good news to Ukraine and partner with the many Christians who call the nation home. As a result, an impressive network of Baptist churches, associations, and institutions are spread across the country. In some respects, a gospel bulwark has sprung up in Ukraine against the encroaching lostness that plagues so much of Europe. The solidarity and support expressed for the nation from Baptist communities in Romania, Moldova, and other nearby countries also demonstrates the key role Ukraine plays in the region.

Finally, this conflict is clearly driven by a vision to recapture the influence once held by the USSR and the appetite for conquest of one man: Vladimir Putin. The valiant stand of Ukraine and the incredible outpouring of support should not obscure the fact that the last year, under Putin’s direction, has been nothing short of hellish for Ukrainians. A bipartisan majority of American officials, reminiscent of the kind seen under the Reagan Doctrine—from President Joe Biden to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—have rightly said Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion must be opposed and stopped.

Our European allies have resolutely said the same, knowing that a successful takeover of Ukraine by Putin won’t end there. Who knows how far he will go to restore a Soviet-like domination of Eastern Europe? We would do well to remember he has called the downfall of the USSR the greatest tragedy of the 20th century

Thinking about year two 

So what does this mean for us as we begin a second year of this war?

Unfortunately, as NPR put it in one of its articles this week, “more misery” is ahead. Russia seems unlikely to relent, and so Ukraine, justifiably, will continue fighting for its survival. Those of us outside the immediate theater of war will continue to feel ripple effects in terms of a refugee crisis and unexpected swings in the international economy. 

Western support, especially America’s resolve, will be tested in the coming months. At this point, the U.S. has provided $110 billion in military and economic aid to Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal. A number of voices, particularly in the political realm, are beginning to question the wisdom of providing that aid or whether it is being used properly.

As a matter of principle, I’m not opposed to scrutinizing how taxpayer resources are utilized. I’m a conservative in my philosophical and policy views. But in this instance, we know the answers. The Journal also indicates that the U.S. Inspectors General have assigned 177 auditors and investigators to track how these funds are deployed. Far from a “blank check,” these funds are being monitored closely to ensure they go to their intended objectives. If Putin accomplishes his aims and become an even larger threat to Europe, the long-term costs would be far greater. 

On a personal level, I have had individuals tell me I am taking an unbiblical view in my support for Ukraine, citing Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I understand their critique. My response is, “Absolutely, I want peace. And, in this situation, I want an aspiring autocrat who attacked a peaceful democratic neighbor to pull back his forces.”

Given Putin is unlikely to be persuaded by such a statement, I believe our next best option is to support Ukraine’s defense while continuing to work all diplomatic avenues that lead to a resolution respecting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. This route promotes peace (Rom. 14:19) in the region while also ensuring innocent lives have the resources and support needed for protection.

Ultimately, that is my main concern. Putin’s invasion is nothing short of a grave injustice being perpetrated against those made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Over the last year, we have witnessed the pummeling of a society and annihilation of innocent lives. Our hearts should break with every destructive blow. At a minimum, we should all pray for the Lord to turn Vladimir Putin from this wicked war and for his salvation. We should seek a day when the bombs, rockets, and artillery would fall silent. If our nation’s support for Ukraine helps make that a reality, we should, as the Baptist Faith and Message puts it, “do all in (our) power to put an end to war (Article XVI).”

By / Feb 23

In 2021 and early 2022, International Mission Board missionaries serving in Ukraine heard rumors of war, which led to an overland evacuation. Looking today in the rearview mirror, they realize they couldn’t have guessed the trauma about to mushroom from the east.  

Less than one month after the missionaries’ exodus, war made a forceful entry into the country they’d come to call home. The war ripped the life from the bodies of more than 7,100 civilians, tore husbands from wives and fathers from children, decimated towns and cities, stole childhoods and livelihoods, and wrought immeasurable havoc on the eastern European nation. 

That the war continues one year after the invasion comes as a surprise to many and is a testament to the interminable resolve and resilience of Ukrainians. That the Ukrainian church has grown, despite the upheaval and chaos, is a testament to the power of the gospel and the perseverance of the church. The church’s growth ballooned out from the country’s borders, following like a parachute to the cities and towns where refugees found welcoming hearts and arms.  

Ukrainian Christian refugees brought the light that could not and would not be extinguished to countries with significantly lower populations of evangelicals. Ukraine is home to the highest percentage of evangelicals in Europe. 

Their dispersion meant the gospel was also dispersed. 

Responding to the needs of Ukrainians

IMB ministry to and among Ukrainians has not halted in the year since the war began. Although IMB missionaries cannot currently live in Ukraine, they remain emotionally and relationally present with Ukrainians. Through Send Relief and IMB missionary presence, Southern Baptists continue to respond to the needs of Ukrainians.

What does it mean for IMB missionaries to be steadfastly present in a time of war and exile? It means:

  • loading a truck and trailer with provisions to take to physically and mentally disabled people in Ukraine, 
  • singing praise songs in a community center-turned-church and leading small group Bible studies in church basements, 
  • driving a van across the countryside to host mobile medical clinics, 
  • continuing to provide theological education for Ukrainian pastors, 
  • and making daring trips into Ukraine to oversee disaster relief projects. 

The world’s greatest problem is still lostness. IMB missionaries and their national partners are still running the race the Lord has set before them—a race to share the promise of the gospel with Ukrainians in their hour of greatest need. 

Looking back 

In the first few months of the war, IMB and Send Relief efforts centered around providing food, supplies, access to shelter and emotional and spiritual care. IMB missionaries, European Baptists, and Southern Baptist volunteers met refugees fleeing across the border and met them in the cities where they landed.  

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, churches in multiple countries continued to take in refugees and welcome them into their congregations. New congregations of war-weary refugees formed. Refugee children attended Christian camps and reclaimed some of the childhood they had lost. IMB missionaries invested their lives in the refugees living in their cities and made trips back into the country to visit national partners. Missionaries and their national partners hosted Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas parties, which provided much-needed time for community and celebration. 

The poignancy of the gospel and the generosity of Christians led to changed lives.  

Send Relief has facilitated 98 Ukrainian relief projects since February 2022. These projects centered in Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova. Volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief made the trans-Atlantic journey to serve on the border of Ukraine. While there, they provided relief in many forms. 

Southern Baptist generosity knew no bounds. Gifts to Ukraine relief thus far have totaled $12.9 million, with $10 million given to Send Relief and $2.9 million given to the IMB. 

IMB missionaries developed digital engagement strategies to reach Ukrainians both inside and outside the country. The reach has been astronomical—22.5 million people visited a website created as an outreach tool.  

Looking forward 

Dan and Lori Upchurch served with the IMB in Lviv, Ukraine, before evacuating ahead of the Russian invasion. They now serve Ukrainian refugees in Poland with their teammates, Sarah and Kanoot Midkiff. They helped facilitate a relief center to meet the physical needs of refugees and planted a church with their national partner. They lead small-group Bible studies and partner with Ukrainian church planters. Dan continues to teach classes at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, first online and now by traveling back to Ukraine.  

After evacuating Kharkiv, Ross and Kasey Lewis and Linda Gray, joined later by Journeyman Harrison Martin have invested their lives ministering to Ukrainian refugees in Romania. They minister in refugee centers and now host mobile medical clinics throughout the region. They recently purchased a van and ultrasound machines.  

Mike and JuliAn Domke took up temporary residence in Hungary, where they minister to Ukrainian refugees. Mike also oversees 20 Send Relief projects in Ukraine and makes frequent trips there. 

IMB missionaries who serve across Europe have added ministry to Ukrainians to their ministry routines. 

David and Shannon Brown and Ayden and Lorelei Klarke serve in Moldova and partner with the Moldovan Baptist Union to serve the many Ukrainian refugees who crossed the country’s eastern border.  

Only the Lord knows how long the war will last. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about Jesus’ name—the name that extends past rumors of war. 

Send Relief is the joint compassion ministry of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board.

This article originally appeared at IMB.org. Read past stories from Ukraine of God’s work through Send Relief and the IMB. Look for more stories coming in the month ahead.

Photo details: IMB missionary Dan Upchurch leads a Bible study for Ukrainian refugees in a Polish Baptist Church. The church has been actively involved in meeting the needs of refugees. Upchurch shares 2 Corinthians 4:9-10 and talks about how God does not leave his people in times of persecution. IMB Photo

By / Oct 3

Southern Baptists have a long history of following in the footsteps of the faith and serving those in need. When Jesus was on Earth, he did not bypass physical needs but met them and used them as a way to share how he was meeting the greatest need of all—the salvation of our souls. Likewise, Send Relief, a collaboration between NAMB and the IMB, seeks to address needs that arise from various circumstances while also sharing the hope of Jesus. One focus of the work at Send Relief is foster care and adoption, which is all the more important in a country without Roe. Josh Benton, vice president of North American ministry at Send Relief, answered a few of our questions about this aspect of their ministry and how churches can be involved. 

Lindsay Nicolet: How does foster care and adoption ministry fit within the mission of Send Relief? 

Josh Benton: Send Relief is the Southern Baptist compassion ministry which seeks to meet physical and spiritual needs in Jesus’ name. Working alongside churches, we care for the vulnerable and strengthen communities around the world. Caring for families and children is one of our five ministry focus areas. Our work in this area includes developing and supporting ministries focused on crisis pregnancy, serving at-risk families, and helping churches develop or support ministries to vulnerable families within their communities. 

LN: What projects is Send Relief involved in as you seek to engage in the foster care and adoption space? 

JB: Send Relief engages foster care and adoption in two specific ways. First, is through our ministry centers. We have 20 Send Relief ministry centers across North America. Two of them, Valdosta, Georgia, and Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, are child placement agencies for foster care and adoption. In addition to child placement, these locations provide training for foster and adoptive families. We also work with churches to help support vulnerable families in their communities with resources, counseling, and respite care, along with providing an opportunity for churches to go on mission trips to learn more about and get hands-on experience with foster care and adoption ministry.  

Second, Send Relief helps churches start a Family Advocacy Ministry, which we call a FAM. FAM is a step-by-step ministry strategy that helps churches serve and advocate for vulnerable children and families as well as those called to foster and adopt. Send Relief helps churches implement FAMs so they can have a gospel-centered impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families.

LN: How does God’s Word drive your work in this key area? 

JB: Scripture is clear about the call to care for vulnerable families. Genesis 1:26-27 establishes that all people are created and designed by God, in the image of God, and are therefore valued by God. Genesis 2 describes God’s intentional design for the family. Then, Genesis 3-4 shows the damaging impact of sin on all creation but, specifically, how sin creates brokenness in families. 

From Deuteronomy 10 to James 1 and several references in between, God not only calls his people to remain committed to his design for the family but to also care for the those without stable, intact families. Romans 8 also beautifully portrays adoption as a picture of our redemption through Christ.

With this in mind, we can sum up how Scripture provides the truths that cultivate Send Relief’s perspective on serving in foster care and adoption ministry with a few statements:

  • Every person is created in the image of God, therefore, all people have value.
  • God designed the family and desires all to be in a family.
  • Christ calls us to reflect his compassion and care for the vulnerable.
  • Foster care and adoption portray how God redeems through a personal faith in Christ. 

LN: What challenges arise with serving children in need and families in today’s culture? And how have/will these change in a post-Roe era?

JB: The challenges for serving vulnerable children and families are significant. Here are a few key statistics from Adoptuskids.org and the Administration for Children and Families

  • Each year more than 250,000 children enter the foster care system in the United States.
  • At any given time, there are on average over 400,000 children in the foster care system.
  • Each year more than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, depending on a state’s laws.
  • Currently, more than 115,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.
  • The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old.
  • Troubling statistics for children who age out of the system:
    • Likely to experience job loss and homelessness
    • 70% of human trafficking victims spent time in foster care
    • 71% of women who age out experience pregnancy within one year 
    • 65% of individuals who are incarcerated aged out of the foster care system

These challenges will likely intensify in our post-Roe world. These are all harrowing statistics, but one of the most significant issues is that there are more children in need provides an opportunity for churches to fill the gap. With more than 115,000 children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted each year, churches can play a role by recruiting families to foster and adopt, mentoring vulnerable families, and providing communities of care for those who are fostering and/or adopting.

LN: How can pastors and ministry leaders create a culture of equipping families to care for children?

JB: No matter what community, city, or state you are in, vulnerable families are present. This isn’t a ministry opportunity that is somewhere else; it’s everywhere. Pastors and church leaders have an important role of recognizing the need that exists, articulating the biblical call to meet the need, and blessing those in their congregation who are led to pursue the ministry opportunity. Send Relief has resources on our FAM page to help pastors and churches pursue ministry to vulnerable families and children.

LN: What are some practical things that local churches can do to come alongside this mission to serve families and those involved in foster care and adoption?

JB: There are several ways churches join Send Relief to serve vulnerable families. One of the most important things is to recognize that there are many ways to serve. There is a great need for families to foster and adopt. Encourage those who are called but also understand not everyone feels that call, and there are multiple ways to serve outside of adopting and fostering. Here are specific ways churches can serve:

  • Praying diligently and consistently for vulnerable children and families
  • Developing a relationship with a local child welfare office
  • Raising awareness about the needs of vulnerable children and families
  • Recruiting families to consider adopting or fostering
  • Providing resources, as well as emotional and spiritual support, to biological families experiencing crisis
  • Helping to meet physical and financial needs of foster and adoptive families
  • Mentoring single mothers
  • Supporting and encouraging local child welfare workers
  • Providing meals or respite care to foster and adoptive families
  • Going on a mission trip at a Send Relief ministry center that serves vulnerable families

For more information on the Dobbs decision and its effects, visit erlc.com/dobbs

By / May 26

At any given moment, an estimated 400,000 U.S. children and teens are in foster care. There also happens to be roughly that many churches across the United States.

“Foster care impacts every community in the U.S., which means that every local church has an opportunity to fulfill the biblical call to care for the fatherless and the vulnerable,” said Josh Benton, vice president of North American ministries at Send Relief. “Through Family Advocacy Ministry, Send Relief is committed to helping churches serve at-risk families and children with quality, Gospel-centered ministry.”

Family Advocacy Ministries 

May is National Foster Care Month, and Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm for Southern Baptists, has been raising awareness for how churches can become involved. Send Relief equips churches to develop Family Advocacy Ministries (FAM) in their congregations that support at-risk children and families in their communities.

“Our good friends were fostering, and we wanted to do something to help them,” Shari King, an advocate of FAM at First Baptist Church Watkinsville, Georgia, said in written comments. “We found out that our FAM was providing practical support to foster families. Initially, we helped by providing one meal for the family each month.”

King and her family, over time, became more involved in volunteering with their FAM before going on to become foster parents themselves.Through a FAM, local churches develop volunteers who provide imminently practical service for foster families by babysitting, tutoring, providing diapers, clothes, and other resources or giving Christmas and birthday presents.

“We want churches to know that the greatest thing that they can offer is not the food that they may bring or other resources, but it’s the relationships,” said Logan Mabe, Send Network planter and lead pastor of Ocean View Church in Chula Vista, Calif. “It’s praying for that family intentionally on a regular basis. It is a phone call checking on a family. It’s all grounded in relationships. That is really, ultimately, what we want to see churches do in San Diego. It’s evangelism and discipleship. It’s long obedience in the same direction.”

When a FAM meets tangible needs and invests in relationships, it helps relieve burdens for foster care families in what is often a fast-paced, busy lifestyle as those families meet the needs of their children.

“Logistics are incredibly challenging in the foster care world. It’s not something I was prepared for, honestly,” said Hayley Catt, a NAMB staff member and single foster mom, in an interview with Send Relief. “Two to three times a week, we are opening our home to therapists, social workers, family consultants, volunteers, and more. We have to rush from one appointment to another, and we don’t get a lot of down time. Having help with transportation, house cleaning, meals, etc., helps to ease that burden.”

A FAM can also help meet spiritual needs when opportunities for gospel conversations arise within foster families as they come and participate in the local church.

“We have also seen kids come into care with families in our church who have accepted Christ,” said Marlaina Harper, an advocate of FAM at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville, Georgia. “We’ve watched them take steps of faith to participate in baptism, as well. Watching both foster and birth families join together in their support of a child’s decision of faith was really meaningful for our whole church.”

In recent years, churches have become increasingly engaged in meeting the needs of foster children and families, but much work remains to be done.

“The work of Family Advocacy Ministries will not be done until there are more families waiting for kids than kids waiting for families. Intentional engagement from the whole Church could drastically alter the child welfare crisis as we know it,” said Connor McCauley, who works for Promise686, an orphan advocacy ministry. “I dream to see a world where every church in every community is dedicated to bringing hope, redemption and care for the kids and families living in the shadows. They need the hope of the Gospel. They need the Church.”

To learn more about how churches can engage in Family Advocacy Ministry, visit SendRelief.org.

This post originally appeared at Baptist Press

By / Oct 6

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought Brazil’s economy to a screeching halt, the already impoverished communities were the ones most affected by the sudden loss of income.

Unable to beg at stoplights, get government subsidized assistance or even sell wares at outdoor markets like they have been accustomed to, these individuals were left with no means of providing for their families.

One region, known for being a vast and crowded slum, with over 200,000 occupants, was particularly devastated by the financial crisis. In this area, coronavirus-related deaths were recorded at a minimum of seven deaths a day—nearly six times the rate of China’s fatalities during this same period.

Send Relief heard about this community living hand-to-mouth and sprung into action.

Equipped with hundreds of food baskets and Bibles, teams were mobilized to help these families experience healing physically and spiritually—but God multiplied these efforts. Initially, this slum was the only neighborhood our teams were deployed to, but because of an increase in volunteer participation and many requests from other communities, we were able to reach five different neighborhoods in the poorest region of Brazil.

One volunteer, Maya*, told Send Relief teams, “The work of distributing the food baskets has been the fundamental help in these communities. Through the distribution, I’ve always seen gratitude in these people. Many of them don’t know how to express gratitude, but just looking in their faces [as they] demonstrate a happiness and hope that there is going to be food in their house, [I know they are]. And through the distribution of Bibles, God has also supplied the most important thing [for] their spiritual needs, and we will continue praying for these people to see that God is the Bread of Life.”

Eventually, this project became so successful that it spawned the creation of four identical efforts throughout São Paulo’s shantytowns and expanded to include mental health counseling. Thousands of people in need were assisted because of your generosity!

Since the beginning of these efforts, a prominent national Christian motorcycle club, Ministério Motociclistico Abençoados, has been an integral part of delivering baskets to families unable to travel to distribution sites. The club president commented on his experience volunteering, saying, “People came up to us and asked for Bibles while we were making deliveries, so we gave them out and prayed with them. In another place, a young pregnant couple came up and asked for a Bible and prayer because they wanted their baby to serve God. In both cases, we made sure that they were introduced to a local pastor and church so they can grow in their knowledge of the gospel.”

Our teams requested the involvement of five local churches to begin building relationships with faith communities, and, through their participation, hundreds of gospel presentations were conducted during the food and Bible distributions.

One church leader, Santiago*, shared, “[At] the distribution of the food, it was very gratifying to see these people so satisfied to receive these baskets. For me, it was an honor to know that we are working for Jesus. I want to thank the people who were involved in [healing] our community—thank you very much!”

This project was made possible by the generosity of Southern Baptists through Global Hunger Relief. On October 11, Global Hunger Sunday, you and your church can help more communities like this experience the tangible love of God.

*Names have been changed for security.

By / Oct 4

God calls the local church to tangibly love and support their communities and Send Relief is enabling them to do so in a radically important way. The ministry, a collaboration of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, aims to partner with local churches to equip them with the finances and supplies necessary to help those affected by a disaster or crisis. 

Send Relief and natural disasters

Right now, that means an intense focus on New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Ida and preparation to help resettle thousands of Afghan refugees who have recently arrived in the United States. 

Relief from Hurricane Ida requires immediate attention, and there were 18 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites that coordinated responses across southern Louisiana and the Northeast. Basic necessities like food, water, and generators, along with resources for temporary roofing and mold remediation comprise much of the current need. 

In response to Hurricane Ida in Louisiana and the Northeast, Send Relief has supported the efforts of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Together, they have already tallied nearly 750,000 meals, 21,124 volunteer days, and volunteers have provided recovery work for approximately 1,700 homeowners. With two crises on their hands, they’ve been working overtime to ensure they are also prepared for the many Afghan families who will require assistance as we welcome them to the United States. 

Send Relief and refugees

Send Relief is not only focusing on natural disasters, but humanitarian crises that are international in scope and domestic in their implication.

“Southern Baptists are clearly being moved by the crisis in Afghanistan,” said Josh Benton, vice president of Send Relief’s National Operations. “They want to be prepared to serve Afghan families and share the gospel with them.” 

Thus far in 2021, hundreds of churches and individuals have given money, signed up as resettlement host homes and registered for training to help in a variety of ways. People appear to be eager to “carry each other’s burdens” -— as Christians are directed in Galatians 6:2. Send Relief is there to tangibly activate that desire. 

One of the most interesting opportunities is a chance to receive personalized coaching in evangelism, discipleship and cross cultural awareness from an Afghan refugee expert. Send Relief is also offering workshops on refugee care, as well as PDF downloads, video guidance and resources on ways to specifically pray for refugee ministry. 

The massive influx of refugees offers Christians across the nation an incredible opportunity to show love to the stranger and welcome them with open arms. Armed with the support of organizations like Send Relief, churches are paving the way for authentic Christian hospitality to envelop our Afghan friends. Such generosity and hospitality is key to the flourishing of the gospel in times of desperation. 

Partnering with Send Relief

For Southern Baptists seeking to engage the work of Send Relief, there are a number of ways to get involved. As for the Hurricane relief efforts, the best way to partner immediately is through a monetary donation. Physical needs are a priority right now. These physical needs, and the donations of Southern Baptists to meet them, provide an avenue for Send Relief volunteers and workers to meet spiritual needs. Regardless of the disaster at hand, Send Relief keeps the gospel at the forefront of what they call “compassion-focused ministries,” -— prioritizing evangelism within the meeting of physical needs. 

“[We] seek to meet the real and felt needs of people and communities,” said Benton, “So that the gospel can be proclaimed and a connection [made] to a local church.” 

There are arms and focuses that go beyond just disaster relief or immediate crises. Send Relief also has ministry locations planted to help those escaping from sex trafficking and families involved in foster care and adoption. They also provide clean water, education and medical care where it is needed most. 

With such a vast immersion into communities nationwide, it is clear that God is accomplishing much through the work of Send Relief. 

By / Aug 26

In the aftermath of the sudden, tragic fall of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban, thousands of refugees have been fleeing the landlocked nation to escape persecution and retaliation from the extremist group. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of Southern Baptists, has begun the process of helping Afghan refugees as they resettle around the world by working with World Relief and other ministry partners.

Photos of packed aircraft and video of desperate Afghan people surrounding planes as they take off have captured the world’s attention in recent days. Those who served alongside the United States military in some capacity are among the groups in the direst situation, but there are thousands of others whose lives and livelihoods are now at risk because of the Taliban.

“We need to pray for the Afghan people as many are fleeing with nothing but the clothes they have on,” said Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief. “Any remaining Christians will be targeted. The women and girls who are left behind will lose the freedoms they’ve gained over the last 20 years. May the church minister to any refugees our government allows in who have supported American efforts or faced persecution there.”

Thousands of Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the United States in the coming days and weeks, and World Relief — a global Christian humanitarian organization that partners with local churches to serve vulnerable populations — has 17 offices across the United States where they aid refugees who will settle there.

As churches seek to respond, Send Relief will provide training and materials to equip churches that want to serve refugees in their communities and connect churches with organizations, like World Relief, that will help make direct connections with refugee families.

Most refugees arrive in the United States and need to find places to live, figure out how to enroll their kids in school and purchase basic household and hygiene items. Many also need assistance with learning English. Organizations like World Relief often work with local churches to help meet some of these needs.

“We don’t view this through the lens of politics or even through the lens of the images coming out of Afghanistan right now,” said James Misner, senior vice president of strategic engagement for World Relief. “We view this through, and we respond through the lens of the commands of God in scripture—which tell us over and over again to welcome the stranger in need.”

Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s U.S. director of church mobilization and advocacy, also addressed concerns about the vetting process for refugees entering the United States with Baptist Press.

The U.S. government has, in recent decades, taken steps to ensure that those applying for refugee status receive background checks against several databases, according to The Heritage Foundation.

Afghans who provided assistance to the U.S., and are seeking to flee Afghanistan apply through a process called the Special Immigrant Visa program, a long vetting procedure that often takes more than two years to complete. Christians, women and other religious minorities are likely to flee the nation and seek refugee status in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Along with assisting in the refugee resettlement process in the United States, Send Relief also coordinates with international partners in resettling refugees in other nations around the world, helping those forced to leave their homes adjust to life in what is oftentimes a strange, new land.

To learn more about how you can give or serve refugees in this current crisis, visit sendrelief.org.

This article was originally published here

By / Mar 3

Last week, a winter storm struck the American Southwest and Southeast, knocking out power in several states. Hardest hit was Texas, where all 254 counties were under extremely cold temperatures. Because of problems with the power grid, more than 3 million Texans were without electricity. Operators of the state’s power grid said the electrical system was “seconds or minutes” from collapsing and leaving Texans without electricity for months.

Along with the power outages, the state has been having issues with water. Approximately 590 public water systems in 141 Texas counties have reported disruptions in service, affecting 11.8 million people. Nearly 7 million citizens were also under boil-water notices, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and over half a million are still under such notices today.

Additionally, disruptions in the food supply chain left many people unable to get food. Grocery store shelves were empty and many people were unable to leave their homes because of snowed over roadways. In an attempt to keep warm, some people attempted to use gas burning stoves, resulting in domestic fires. The Houston Fire Department reported responding to 56 structure fires and over 100 calls related to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Storm-related incidents have to date resulted in about 40 deaths, though authorities say we may never know how many people died as a result of the frigid cold

Soon after the storm hit, a number of SBC organizations rushed to the aid of Texans. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), partnered with Feeding America, Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC) Disaster Relief, and Texas Baptist Men to help meet immediate needs for those affected by the storm. 

Food shortages became a serious issue for many people in need, notes Natalie Sarrett. Send Relief provided financial help to Feeding America food banks across Texas so they could resupply and avoid a larger food crisis.

“The help that Send Relief has provided through the food bank donations is assisting people across the most affected cities—it’s way more than a drop in the bucket,” said David Wells of Texas Baptist Men. “All three of our major cities—Dallas, San Antonio and Houston—have people in them who have never even seen snow before, and they’re depending on us and these food banks for help.”

In McKinney, Texas, says Sarrett, workers at a nursing home reached out to SBTC for emergency food rations. The state’s Disaster Relief was able to mobilize a food truck team to provide meals to residents and caretakers. Following this project, the city of McKinney also asked for them to serve first responders.

“They were so busy responding that they had skipped or were unable to obtain meals,” said Director of Disaster Relief Scottie Stice. “We appreciate the partnership with Send Relief and all our fellow state coordinators who have reached out to offer support and prayer—it is an incredibly difficult situation, and we would not be able to do this without you.”