NASHVILLE (BP) -- Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program helped survivors after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; it will do so again in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and, now, Maria.
The SBC Executive Committee, in its Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, voted to utilize overages in the 2016-2017 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for disaster relief in two ways:
-- Designating the first $1.25 million of any overage in the SBC's $189 million allocation budget for disaster relief in Florida and Texas by the Send Relief ministry of the North American Mission Board.
-- Redirecting all of the overage that would go to the Executive Committee to the International Mission Board for international disaster relief initiatives such as those under way in the Caribbean.
The EC also made provision for other SBC entities to assist with hurricane relief from their budgets through a one-time action to suspend SBC bylaw stipulations.
The Executive Committee also issued a "Call to Prevailing, Intercessory Prayer" in light of recent natural disasters, including wildfires raging in the West, and the current cultural tumult in the U.S. such as racism and "rampant disregard for the commands and teaching of God's Word." (See today's Executive Committee wrap-up report.)
Frank S. Page, the Executive Committee's president, set forth the CP reallocation by noting to EC members, "We are blessed this year to receive more than we needed for our budget. We praise God for that. So we're asking that of the overage, $1.25 million go to disaster relief.
"But of the Executive Committee's overage, we're giving 100 percent of that overage to disaster relief through the IMB," Page said of the recommendation, adding that it's important that Southern Baptists be "proactive, take a stand and say, 'We want to bless those who are hurting in this difficult time.'"
The Executive Committee actions, approved unanimously acting ad interim on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, parallel those taken by the EC after Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005.
The $1.25 million CP reallocation to NAMB's Send Relief and the reallocation to the IMB from the Executive Committee are "a good starting place," Page said, in an overage that could reach $8 million by the close of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Beyond the $1.25 million reallocation, the remainder of the CP overage will be distributed to the SBC entities according to the standing CP allocation percentages, with Page noting that each entity will have the opportunity "to give even more" for Southern Baptists' relief work in the disaster zones.
In a time of prayer stemming from the EC's call for prevailing intercessory prayer, Page prayed for its overall intent to stir Christians to a vibrant faith amid the nation's woes. Regarding the hurricanes, he prayed, "There are men, women, boys and girls now in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Caribbean, who didn't know what their lives were going to be like a month ago. But now they find themselves in extreme stress and anxiety, wondering where the next meal will come from, wondering where they will spend the night.... So Father, in this time of extremeness, we pray for Your hand of comfort. We pray, God, that God's people would rise up to minister like never before."
Page, in comments to Baptist Press, voiced gratitude to the officers and members of the Executive Committee for the CP reallocation, describing it as “a strong stance to minister to hurting persons in the many disasters that have recently befallen our nation and world.”
“It is imperative,” he reiterated, “that we be proactive and set a good example of ministering to these persons whose lives have been forever altered.”
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria was a Category 4 storm inflicting unprecedented damage on Puerto Rico. Harvey began its rampage of record rainfall and sweeping flooding in Houston, south Texas and southwest Louisiana on Aug. 25 followed by Irma's onslaught on Florida on Sept. 10.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, noted that the CP reallocation underscores that "Southern Baptists have a history of ministering to and providing for disaster survivors in their greatest hour of need. I am grateful to the members of the SBC Executive Committee for taking this action, which will help us serve even more people who have been through such tragedy. And I want to thank Southern Baptists whose generosity in giving makes this possible."
IMB President David Platt said he is "deeply grateful to Southern Baptists for their generous giving through the Cooperative Program in a way that has led to opportunities for increased giving to disaster relief."
"It is a powerful sight to see Southern Baptists coming together as churches, state conventions and national entities to share and show God's grace in the midst of urgent physical and spiritual need," Platt said in comments relayed to Baptist Press. "Let's continue to pray for all those affected by these disasters and all those who are working tirelessly to provide relief in the midst of them."
Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Relief, reported that the Southern Baptist humanitarian organization in partnership with the IMB, is assisting local Baptist partners and entities in three Caribbean countries.
"The contributions to the IMB from the EC will go a long way to place food and supplies into the hands of our Baptist brothers and sisters as they help with the continuing assessments and distributions," Palmer said in written comments.
"Moreover, we pulled our BGR team out before the second hurricane hit (Maria) and will move quickly back in with new assessments and waves of help," Palmer reported. "We have already committed $250,000 of assistance in [the Caribbean] and know that there will be calls for more after Maria. Thank you EC for the boost to our ability to respond."
Stateside, nearly 400 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units from multiple states had been deployed in various capacities in Florida and Texas as of Sept. 19, preparing nearly 1.9 million meals; tackling nearly 2,000 chainsaw, mud-out, debris removal and mold remediation assignments; engaging in 1,300 Gospel conversations; and witnessing 225 professions of faith.