Christian Denominations: Katrina is Our Biggest Response Ever

The nation’s largest denominations are mobilizing their people and collecting massive funds to help the victims of last week’s devastating hurricane. The Southern Baptist Convention announced that 1,000 volunteers will travel from across the nation to help, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. issued a $10 million appeal.

According to a risk modeling firms, Hurricane Katrina will cost as much as $25 billion in damages. Deaths have already reached into the hundreds and some warn that estimate could shoot to the thousands after the debris is settled.

Several denominations have reported the loss of many of their parishes and churches in the region, and many more announced that they will open church doors for those in need of shelter, water and food.

To help in this massive effort, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance issued a $10 million appeal for the relief and already earmarked $500,000 from the One Great Hour of Suffeirng offering and general relief funds for immediate response.

Susan Ryan, PDA Coordinator, said the Hurricane relief effort “will be the biggest thing we’ve responded to domestically, in terms of the scope and the damage and the number of people involved,” according to the Presbyterian News Service.

Similarly, Southern Baptist relief workers characterized the response as the “largest ever.”

“Response to Hurricane Katrina will be the largest ever for Southern Baptists with more than 1,000 volunteers and 100 mobile Disaster Relief units activated to hurricane and tornado ravaged regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia,” an Aug. 31 report from the SBC’s North American Mission Board began.

“We’ve worked for 35 years to build capacity to respond to something like this. It will be a major test,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the NAMB, in the report. “This is day three of the disaster, which is typically the most difficult day. We are beginning to understand the extent of the damage and the logistical challenges that lie ahead.”

Meanwhile, Kathryn Sime, director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s World Hunger and Disaster Appeal called for financial gifts.

"Financial gifts are urgently needed to help with a flexible, efficient and immediate plan for disaster response," Sime said to ELCA news.

Dozens of denominations are collecting gifts for the response. To contribute to the NAMB, visit: www.namb.net/dr. To give to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, visit: http://www.pcusa.org/pda/response/usa/hurricanekatrina-index.htm. To give to the United Methodist Church, visit: http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/05/katrinaresp.cfm.