RICHMOND, Va.— 2.4 million pounds of rice, flour, beans and other staple foods arrived at ports in Houston, Texas and Norfolk, Virginia to be shipped overseas. The “gifts of love,” gathered for hungry Iraqi families since mid-April testify the giving heart of Southern Baptist Churches across the country.
"We could not have done it without the involvement of our Southern Baptist family. I will be forever grateful for the love and concern expressed through their involvement," said Jim Brown, director of world hunger and relief ministries at the International Mission Board.
"I can't thank Southern Baptists enough -- individuals, Sunday School classes, churches, state conventions and numerous disaster relief teams," he continued.
Donors spent approximately $2 million filling the boxes despite the financial hardships they faced through the year.
Missouri Baptists, themselves recovering from a series of tornadoes, donated $26,000 and 2,000 food boxes for the cause. Each box feeds a family of five for approximately one month.
"The people of Missouri are still giving even though they have personally been affected by disaster," said Gary Morrow, volunteer director of disaster relief operations for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
"Everyone pitched in to physically help needy Iraqis,” Brown noted.
On Christian truck driver from southeastern Missouri voluntarily drove his 18-wheeler to haul a load across the country to the collection center in Virginia.
Stories like these illustrate how Southern Baptists sacrificially and creatively went the extra mile for people they likely will never see, Brown said.
According to Jean Mc Daniel Renfrow, the IMB transportation freight manager specially noted the donations of North Carolina Baptists, who produced 6,500 of the estimated 35,000 boxes.
The boxes, stamped with John 1:17 in Arabic, "will be specifically delivered to hungry families rather than being mass-distributed at a refugee camp," Brown said. "This project will help aid workers build and sustain credible relationships with new Iraqi friends, relationships I believe God will honor and bless in His way and His time."
The containers were slated to leave the two ports for the 45-day journey at sea June 1, but have been pushed back because the Um Qsar site will not be opened until June 15.
"The situation is still fluid, and the specific distribution plan has not been totally finalized," he said, but the food likely will be in the hands of needy Iraqi families as soon as early August. God's provision in providing the boxes will be as providential as His timing over their distribution, Brown added.
"Relief efforts generally push for great assistance in large cities immediately following a disaster, but humanitarian aid tends typically to die out after a few months," said Brown. "That's exactly when regional workers will team with local officials to supply isolated, needy areas in southern Iraq with assistance."
The direct hands-on effort to fill the boxes also served to unite the donating churches.
"I am floored at what the box-to-Iraq project has done for our people," said Nan Sugg, a former missionary to Taiwan now serving with First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. "We've had people who have never before had anything to do with missions bring a bag of flour or a sack of beans to add to their Sunday School class' box."
The IMB World Hunger Fund will cover the estimated $325,000 freight cost for the project. Although deadlines for assembling food boxes have passed, donations can still be made to the World Hunger Fund.
By Pauline J.