Training for Trauma: Disaster Relief for Fires, Floods, Drought Unites Baptists In South Africa and Kentucky

Coy Webb, disaster relief director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, conducts disaster relief training for the Baptist Union of Southern Africa's executive board in Cape Town, South Africa. Webb traveled to Cape Town with KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood to help the Baptist Union form its own disaster relief ministry. Photo by Paul Chitwood/KBC
Coy Webb, disaster relief director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, conducts disaster relief training for the Baptist Union of Southern Africa’s executive board in Cape Town, South Africa. Webb traveled to Cape Town with KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood to help the Baptist Union form its own disaster relief ministry.
Photo by Paul Chitwood/KBC

The shantytowns of Cape Town, South Africa, could be among the initial disaster relief deployments for the Baptist Union of Southern Africa.

In a partnership with the Kentucky Baptist Convention facilitated by the Baptist Global Response humanitarian organization, the Baptist union’s disaster relief ministry is in the early stages of development, according to reports by the KBC Kentucky Today news site and KBC Western Recorder newsjournal.

South Africa is among several countries where Baptist state convention disaster relief leaders have conducted training of local Baptists for responding to disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Paul Chitwood, the Kentucky convention’s executive director, noted, “As with KBC Disaster Relief, the disaster relief ministry built by our brothers and sisters in South Africa will help them show the love of Christ and also be a great platform for them to share the Gospel.”

Chitwood and KBC disaster relief director Coy Webb, along with BGR field strategist Jeff O’Loughlin, met with Baptist union leaders in Cape Town Feb. 28-March 4 regarding principles and issues for a ministry to deliver humanitarian and spiritual aid. They also visited recent disaster sites in the region and Webb provided training for several key leaders.

“The potential impact of this new ministry to open doors in the country for the Gospel is immense,” Webb said.

In the shantytowns, for example, Webb said the makeshift houses situated tightly together in impoverished settlements are major fire hazards, while many other poor neighborhoods are at risk for flooding.

Webb encouraged Baptist union leaders to initially focus on preparations for fire and flood scenarios and trauma care.

“It would be far better to find gap areas right now in current disaster responses … and maybe begin with two or three ministries and allow the ministry to grow as more resources become available,” Webb said, “rather than trying to do too much initially and becoming overwhelmed or perhaps not having adequate volunteers or resources to do things in an effective manner.”

Webb said the Baptist Union plans to start by responding to no more than three regional disasters, which commonly include village fires, floods and droughts.

“I was impressed by the leadership and the gifted partners that God joined together” for the Baptist union’s DR ministry, Webb said.

The KBC and Baptist union are still working out details for their partnership. However, Chitwood said, it likely will involve disaster response workshops, for which the KBC will provide trainers and resource materials, and Webb said the KBC might send a team to work alongside the Baptist union during a disaster.

“Our volunteers are very well organized, well-trained and have a lot of experience with this,” Chitwood said.

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa has grown to several hundred churches since its founding in 1877 by several English-speaking churches and a German-speaking church. The union has the will and resources “necessary for an effective disaster response organization,” O’Loughlin said in an email. “They just needed to know how to put it all together.”

While in the region, Webb joined representatives of other Southern Baptist organizations in surveying drought conditions in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

“We saw massive crop failures in the mountain villages that will likely lead to 1.5 million people suffering from severe hunger,” Webb said.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Kentucky Today, Western Recorder & Baptist Press Staff