Tsunami relief hits home

Steven Harbaugh

There are 1.9 billion people in Asia living on less than $2 per day. Forty-three percent of the population that qualifies is below the poverty level. That is now expected to increase above 50 percent because of the tsunami, according to the Asian Development Bank, a financial institution dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia.

Churches assist in relief

Church-affiliated philanthropy groups have been hard at work bringing aid to the afflicted areas through missions stationed in Southeast Asia. These organizations will provide food, clean drinking water, tents, supplies and medical assistance.

The Christian Life Center at 5931 Rhodes Road in Kent is encouraging members of the congregation to send offerings through their philanthropy organization, Convoy of Hope.

“We’ve announced for the past four weeks for people to make donations,” pastor David Bittinger said. “We also have a medical missions ministry, and they go into situations where there are needs for medical assistance. We also have teams of people that will go from churches in Asia and help in rebuilding, especially new church facilities for them.”

Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent donates its monetary gifts through Lutheran World Relief. In addition, it also sets out a special offering plate during its service.

At the Presbyterian Church of Kent, by donating directly to the Presbyterian relief unit, the church is able to get credit for “mission giving,” which is credited in church financial paperwork. The entirety of the donation still goes toward tsunami relief, and none is taken out for the church, according to Kay Lee, a member of the congregation.

At the Kent Church of the Nazarene, members of the congregation can donate through the general offering and check a box if they would like a percentage of the money or the entire amount to go toward tsunami relief efforts, associate pastor Linda Allen said.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent has an ongoing fund raiser with its national service committee. Members of the church donate to the committee that then disperses the funds.

At the United Church of Christ, senior minister Paul Ashby sent out bulletins to the congregation, encouraging them to donate through the church or through other groups like the Red Cross. The nationwide ministries have already gathered more than $300,000.

“We’re actually just sort of beginning the process,” Ashby said. “I’ve mentioned it in prayers and sermons for the last couple weeks. We want to support these people in their hour of need.”

God’s place in the disaster

Anytime there is a natural disaster, especially one of this magnitude, ministers and those in positions of authority at churches try to rationalize the state of the world through their pastoral lessons.

Ashby addressed the disaster in one of his Bible study courses.

At the Islamic Community Center in Cuyahoga Falls, a mosque many Kent State students attend, the mosque devoted an entire day to discussing the tsunami. All donations from that day’s service went toward the relief fund.

But there is still work to be done.

Despite the fact that the tsunami didn’t hit particularly close to home, there is still time to donate and plenty of people who need assistance.

Ashby offers optimism about the devastation. This is a sentiment that he has shared with members of his congregation.

“God was not in the disaster,” he said. “God is in the compassionate response.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].