ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Seeking to fill gaps as Southern Baptists serve disaster survivors and other people in need, the North American Mission Board two years ago began Send Relief. The ministry identifies five main areas of need: poverty, refugees and internationals, foster care and adoption, human trafficking and disaster response.
“While Send Relief aims to send hope by meeting material needs, the primary reason Send Relief exists is to send the eternal hope of the gospel through compassion ministries,” David Melber, the president of Send Relief told The Pathway.
Aside from its own national strategy, Send Relief seeks to equip local churches to learn how to meet these needs in their own communities and share the hope of Jesus. For example, churches in some states may not have access to ministries like the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, which facilitates foster care, adoption and human trafficking rescue.
On the Disaster Relief front, Send Relief has its own national disaster director who relates directly to the 42 state Baptist conventions and their disaster relief ministries, including Missouri. Like most state conventions, the infrastructure for disaster relief and other recognized compassion ministries is supported by the Cooperative Program. Additional funding for equipment, fuel and other expenses comes from individual gifts, grants, endowments and other sources.
Melber said that in addition to its traditional disaster relief responsibilities, and paying for an online training platform and site/volunteer management software for use by state DR ministries, NAMB brings Send Relief resources into play in some disaster settings.
“By engaging volunteers who are not currently involved, we can help fill some of those gaps,” Melber said.
Send Relief does not respond to the vast majority of disasters; Send Relief primarily focuses on the largest regional and national events that draw significant interest from untrained volunteers. That can mean engaging with an immediate response, allowing time for state DR ministries to deploy, looking for places to connect with less-trained volunteers to serve, very short-term opportunities (sometime a few hours, or just a few days). This also creates an opportunity for non-SBC people and churches to serve following a disaster.
“While leadership roles will always be filled by Southern Baptist believers, we believe including non-SBC and even un-churched volunteers is an effective way to share the gospel with them,” Melber said.