Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is encouraging Baptists in Australia and Brazil as they grapple with the after-effects of severe flooding that devastated parts of their countries.
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said "the Baptist World Alliance is saddened by the loss of life and the dislocations that have occurred in both Australia and Brazil. We are heartened that our Baptist brothers and sisters in these countries are rising to the challenge to offer prayer and material support to those who have suffered."
A series of floods caused from record rainfalls and a compromised dam have affected the Australian state of Queensland since December 2010. The deluge resulted in severe damage in about 70 towns, including the capital, Brisbane, the deaths of at least 30 citizens, and the evacuation of thousands.
Baptist Union of Queensland General Superintendent David Loder indicated that maintaining contact in the affected areas proved difficult because of "phone outages and phone congestion."
At the time of reporting, there was news from only 15 percent of the Baptist churches, or about 35 congregations, that are in the disaster zone in Queensland. Loder declared that this "nowhere near represents the story of the tragic events that have been experienced by people in these communities."
Of the churches from which reports were gleaned, only a few experienced minor damage. "We thank the Lord that, as far as we know, there has been no loss of life in our Baptist family," Loder said. He stated, however, that "many church people will have been evacuated, isolated and suffered property loss and damage."
The Baptist Union of Australia, Queensland Baptists, and the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, have appealed to their constituencies for donations and funds to assist victims of the flooding.
In Brazil, flooding in the mountainous regions of the state of Rio de Janeiro beginning on January 11 led to massive mudslides and the deaths of more than 500 persons, mainly in the cities of Teresópolis, Nova Friburgo, Petrópolis and Sumidouro.
The Brazilian Baptist Convention through its Social Action Department, the Home Mission Board, and the Baptist Convention of Fluminense, is mobilizing and garnering support for people who were left homeless as a result of torrential rains in Rio de Janeiro. Appeals have been sent to Brazilian Baptists for prayers and to donate water, food, hygiene products, diapers, and clothing. A number of collection points have been opened at several Baptist churches to receive in-kind donations.
"We need a massive mobilization of Brazilian Baptists who are close to places affected to welcome our brothers in Christ," a release from the Brazilian Baptist Convention states. The Central Baptist Church in Teresópolis, one of the cities that suffered heavily, is housing 37 persons who were displaced by the flooding.
Rio de Janeiro has been badly affected by a series of devastating floods in recent times. At least 85 people died in floods and mudslides in January 2010, and a further 212 deaths occurred in another flooding episode four months later, in April.
Callam, who is on a trip to Chile, will survey areas where BWA gave assistance following the massive earthquake in that country in February of last year. He reflected that "times of disaster and great tragedy are occasions for Christians, including Baptists, to display the love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to minister to those who needed God's love."