Tsunami Relief Donations from Southern Baptists Surpass $1.4 Million After One Week

Southern Baptists have responded with “characteristic compassion and lots of money” to the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that has so far killed over 150,000 people across 12 countries in South Asia, a mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention reported Friday. Since the quake-tsunami ravaged Asia last week, donations have been streaming into the International Mission Board (IMB) from Southern Baptists around the nation. By Jan. 6, more than $1.4 million had been given.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the response,” said Ritchie Lipscomb, who directs the department handling financial receipts at the board.

According to the IMB, gifts ranged from three $1 bills in an envelope to thousands of dollars in a single check. While most checks came in smaller amounts—$20, $25, $50, $100, $200—some were made out for $1,000, several for $5,000, others even larger, the agency reported.

Two of the largest individual donations came from Georgia and Mississippi. A homebound widow in Jackson, Miss., sent a check for $20,000. The notation on the check read simply, “Asia Earthquake Relief.” There was no other note.

A company in the Atlanta area also sent a check for $20,000.

Because gifts through SBC’s Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering pay for basic support and administrative expenses for missionaries around the world, board personnel can use all gifts designated for relief efforts on actual relief ministries, the IMB explained. No relief funds are used for administrative or promotional purposes.

And funds designated for relief efforts are not spent simply on the first opportunity that presents itself. Assessment teams visit areas to determine needs, often working with local Baptist churches and other evangelical Christians in determining where help will do the greatest good—not just at the moment, but also in the long run. Field personnel then request funding for specific projects.

To assure effectiveness, the International Mission Board’s World Hunger and Relief Ministries office and Office of Overseas Operations evaluate each project by criteria designed. Project leaders then follow up with two reports–one right after funding is approved and another when the project is completed, returning any unused funds to be reallocated to other relief projects.

Last June, Southern Baptist churches and their 5,376 missionaries around the world celebrated a monumental $136.2 million response to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions—an increase of almost $21.2 million (18.4 percent) over the previous year. It was the largest dollar increase in the offering’s 115-year history.