MANILA, Philippines -- When a late-night fire raged through three neighborhoods and left thousands of people homeless in Manila, the Philippines, on Oct. 20, Southern Baptist missionaries and their Filipino Baptist coworkers moved quickly to respond.
They were able to help hundreds of families, one missionary said, because of Southern Baptists' generous missions giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
As many as 2,000 families lost their homes to the fire, which emergency crews fought for eight hours in the suburbs of Pasay and Makati.
Southern Baptist missionaries responded by drawing $2,000 from International Mission Board relief funds and assembling bags of food for fire victims who had taken refuge in Pasay Community of Praise Church, a Baptist congregation in the neighborhood. The missionaries also personally donated money and used clothing for the refugees.
The Baptist response was part of a broader effort involving government offices, humanitarian organizations and other missions agencies. Filipino staff members of the International Mission Board office in Manila helped distribute food through the Pasay church.
The congregation held a thanksgiving and praise service Oct. 30 for fire victims housed in the church building, so all the families would have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
"We are thankful we had the opportunity to minister to the people of Pasay," said Mark Harvey, strategy leader for the missionary team focused on the Filipino people groups of Luzon Island. "We also are grateful for the ability to partner with the Pasay Baptist church to ease the suffering of those who were victimized by the fire."
Missionaries are on the field and able to respond to a crisis like this because of Southern Baptist support through their unified giving plan, the Cooperative Program, and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Harvey said. Funds for relief efforts also come from CP and designated gifts to hunger and relief funds.
Southern Baptists are preparing to receive their 2003 Christmas offering, which has a national goal of $133 million. IMB President Jerry Rankin has challenged churches to increase their giving by 33 percent and reach for a challenge goal of $150 million as a response to God's yearning for all peoples to know Him.