Christian relief and denominational leaders pleaded with the faithful across America to answer the call of Jesus by giving and providing for the suffering in Asia, in the aftermath of one of the deadliest tragedies in recorded human history.
Jesus Christ calls us to express our love for him by providing aid in his name to those in need, explained Rev. R. Randy Day, chief staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Let us show the people of Southeast Asia our Christmas love by our response to the UMCOR appeal.
According to the latest estimates by the International Red Cross, there are 77,828 confirmed dead from Sundays massive earthquake and subsequent tsunamis and the number is expected to rise sharply.
Every minute, news reports from the region unveil horrifying stories of half-decayed bodies floating along the coastline and survivors digging the graves of their loved ones with nothing more than their hands and fingers.
Whats worse, according to health experts, disease could kill as many people as the wave.
"Many people have illnesses such as respiratory problems, diarrhea, skin irritations and cuts. There are still maybe thousands of bodies out there. We are reaching the peak of the threat," Edward Sy, an Indonesian Red Cross senior field officer, told Reuters in Banda Aceh.
"If the government doesn't immediately take action, worse diseases could spread." In two to three days signs of cholera could emerge, Sy said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), five million people lack the essentials of food, water and sanitation to survive.
"There is no food here whatsoever. We need rice. We need petrol. We need medicine," said Vaiti Usman, an Indonesian woman in her mid-30s in the devastated Aceh province in Indonesia where tens of thousands died. "I haven't eaten in two days."
Despite the $100 million total pledge by the United States and Japan, health experts say relief operations are woefully inadequate. Shortages of coffins, equipment, medicine, food and clean water are visible throughout the 12-country stretch.
In light of the indescribable tragedy, Christian relief groups have been urging and pleading with the faithful to offer prayers and financial contributions to those suffering abroad.
I just cant emphasize enough how important it is that we respond to this disaster. I know that United Methodists will not turn their backs on the people who have suffered from this devastation, said Rev. Kristin L. Sachen, head of UMCORs international emergency services.
Sachen explained that while there are initial funds to start moving into the affected regions, significantly more would be needed over the next months to even begin long-term recovery.
We have some initial funds to send this week, she said to the United Methodist News Service, but the long-term support will depend on the offerings local churches receive in response to the disaster.
Similarly, an International Mission Board worker of the Southern Baptist Convention explained that while the initial $125,000 contribution from the Southern Baptist disaster relief fund will help begin the effort, much more is ultimately needed.
"That will help us get a lot started, but until we go in and get on the ground, it's hard to say how much we'll need," the relief worker said.
He also explained that the funds must be offered as soon as possible, since the timing of the relief work is going to be as important as the supplies we distribute.
According to the American Red Cross, outbreaks of malaria and cholera will be inevitable within just days, should relief continue at current pace.
Makeshift shelters and hospitals have been established in churches, temples and mosques in the region. However, the local faith community said donations are critical in running the shelters.
Donations can be made through several Christian denominations and relief programs. The following is a list of a few denominational relief agencies.
United Methodist Church
Donations to UMCORs South Asia Emergency relief efforts can be made through local churches with checks designated for UMCOR Advance #274305. Gifts can also be sent to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10015, marked South Asia Emergency. Credit card donations may be made by calling 1-800-554-8583.
Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptists and other Christians can help by sending financial gifts for aid through the IMB disaster relief fund. Send gifts designated "Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief" to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, Va., 23230 (to give online, go to the International Mission Board's website, www.imb.org, and click on "Give Now" in the box highlighting this story). All funds given will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.
Christian Reformed Church
Financial donations to support CRWRC Disaster Response efforts should be marked "South Asia Earthquake" and sent to CRWRC at 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560 in the US or 3475 Mainway, PO Box 5070 Stn LCD1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8 in Canada. Credit card donations can also be given by calling 1-800-55-CRWRC (US) or 1-800-730-3490 (Canada) or through CRWRC's website at www.crwrc.org.
ERD representatives request that contributions be directed to Episcopal Relief and Development, South Asia Relief Fund, P.O. Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101. Contributions may also be forwarded on-line ( http://www.er-d.org/ ).
Church World Service
Contributions to support CWS recovery efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515; by calling: (800)-297-1516 ext. 222; or by going the Church World Service website at www.churchworldservice.org