ALPHARETTA, GA (BP) – For many pastors and churches, Send Relief is still a developing thought. Just a year ago, Send Relief became a key part of the North American Mission Board's strategy to equip our churches to engage their communities through compassionately serving those around them for the sake of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Since the launch of Send Relief at the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, we have seen and heard of churches across North America -- established churches and church plants -- utilizing resources provided by Send Relief to meet the needs of their neighbors. Here are some practical examples:
In April, Lakota Hills Baptist Church in West Chester, Ohio, used our Home Fire Campaign program to install free smoke alarms in their community. Send Relief distributed the alarms, provided free by the American Red Cross, which allowed the church to mobilize nearly 80 volunteers into their community that day. They're building relationships throughout their community and plan to do the outreach event again in October.
In May, Strong Tower church at Washington Park in Montgomery, Ala., held a community festival with 150-plus people in attendance. During the festival, they utilized our Send Relief mobile medical clinic to provide care to more than 20 uninsured residents. While volunteer doctors and nurses administered care, others from the church were meeting additional physical and spiritual needs. At least two people placed their faith in Jesus during that event.
At the end of August, St. Louis-area Southern Baptist churches and business leaders will lead thousands of volunteers to produce a million meals to be distributed to those in need throughout St. Louis and beyond. We'll be taking 250,000 of those meals via our Send Relief tractor-trailer to our new ministry hub in Appalachia, where we'll be distributing them to those in need throughout the region. Think of the Gospel-sharing opportunities when you share a million meals!
Speaking of Appalachia, state conventions and churches have committed to providing at least 65,000 backpacks to be distributed to needy children throughout the region this year. Through local churches, these backpacks will be given to children, along with the Gospel. You could do something like this in your hometown! Through the Appalachian hub, we'll be able to serve one of the most disadvantaged regions of North America. The ministry hub there will be a distribution center for food and other necessities to reach the thousands of people who live in poverty. This hub also will serve as another staging facility to respond with disaster relief resources.
In addition to the Appalachian hub, God has graciously allowed us to acquire another property in Clarkston, Ga. Each hub allows Southern Baptists to serve and experience ministry in unique contexts. In Clarkston, we're positioned in one of the most diverse communities in North America. In the "Ellis Island of the South," you will find more than 50 unique ethnic backgrounds. Clarkston is a mission field, but it is not unreached. The new Send Relief ministry hub will not only allow us to serve the community in relevant ways, but churches from throughout North America will be able to experience ministry in this unique context and learn how to serve people of diverse backgrounds in their own communities. You can expect more in early 2018 as the property is prepared to serve and equip our churches.
We're incredibly excited to partner with state Baptist children's homes to launch a campaign emphasizing the need for churches across North America to step up and meet the needs of orphaned children in our state foster care systems. We're called to serve orphans and widows, and we hope to see thousands of Southern Baptists respond to that need.
Of course, our alliance with state convention partners in the area of disaster relief is the core of our ability to serve communities in response to weather-related crises. The 45 disaster-related entities are key to serving those areas when they're impacted by hurricane, flood, tornado or fire. And we're prepared to support them to ensure that the response is optimally coordinated. While other organizations might be the first in, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is often the last out. With 70,000 volunteers and 50 years of experience, the third-largest disaster relief organization in North America stands ready.
Why do we do Send Relief? To equip the church for its next missional opportunity. What does that look like? It depends on where you live and the needs of your community. When we drop our agendas and consider others above ourselves, when we show compassion and meet the needs of others rather than being concerned for our convenience, that's when ministry takes place and relationships are formed. Send Relief exists to equip you and your church to share Jesus and to see others place their faith in Him. That's why we say: Send Help. Send Hope. Send Relief.
To learn more or to find resources your church can use in ministry, visit Send Relief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Melber is vice president of Send Relief at the North American Mission Board.