This year has been anything but ordinary.
From wildfires and volcano eruptions to new refugee crises and food deserts, there were many opportunities to share God’s love in 2021.
Over the entire year, Send Relief served nearly 1.5 million people and shared the gospel with almost 300,000 people in need. More than 90 new churches were started as a result of our evangelistic compassion projects and, even more exciting, over 37,000 of the people we served gave their lives to Christ!
One of the biggest disaster response efforts of the year came in reaction to Hurricane Ida. Volunteers dedicated 24,900 days of free debris clean-up projects, roof tarping and flood recovery efforts to the survivors of this category 4 storm.
Families along the Louisiana Gulf Coast were hit particularly hard by power outages, water shortages and flash floods. In partnership with state conventions and Southern Baptist Disaster Response (SBDR) teams, Send Relief was able to distribute 779,000 free meals and host more than 1,100 gospel presentations and Bible distributions while providing resources like generators and pallets of water to SBDR teams on the ground.
COVID-19 in India
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on many developing nations as new variants emerged. India, in particular, faced catastrophic public health challenges. At its peak, India registered more than 350,000 COVID cases and 3,000 deaths every day.
In response, Send Relief partners mobilized teams to distribute face masks, portable oxygenators and food to the families most impacted. During one of these distributions, a partnering pastor felt convicted to deliver an aid package to a man well-known in the city for persecuting Christians and harassing believers during church services. In an unexpected act of God, this man went from being an oppressor to a church congregant overnight! The pastor shared, “I was scared, but when he saw me and the food, he welcomed me into his home and embraced me. The same man who persecuted my church is now faithfully attending because of the love we showed him.”
In the wake of the Taliban’s tragic takeover in Afghanistan, thousands of refugees fled their homeland to seek safety in other countries. Photos of packed aircraft and videos of desperate Afghan people surrounding planes as they took off captured the world’s attention.
Send Relief president Bryant Wright commented, “We need to pray for the Afghan people. Any remaining Christians will be targeted, and the women and girls who are left behind will lose the freedoms they’ve gained over the last 20 years. May the church minister to any refugees our government allows in who have faced persecution.”
And thankfully, the church stepped up to do just that! Pillar Church of Dumfries partnered with Send Relief in creating daily activities for children stuck on U.S. military bases as their families’ paperwork is processed. These children have been through more trauma in their short lives than many of us will ever experience, and it was important to our teams that they be reminded of God’s love for them and the childlike joy they once knew. As a result, volunteers are now hosting two-a-day sessions that include sports, games, songs, crafts and ESL classes that not only allow the children to play and socialize, but also will help them acclimate to their new home more quickly.
In the United States, we faced our own crisis as the evils of human trafficking continued to thrive amid the pandemic. With people spending more time online and away from their communities in lockdown, traffickers had more opportunities to exploit people in vulnerable positions than ever before.
Thankfully, our partners at Baptist Friendship House (BFH) in Louisiana came up with a new ceramics program to help survivors start their own online businesses and earn a living. One of the program participants, Sarah, struggled with alcohol addiction and homelessness for many years before finding herself in a trafficking situation and seeking the help of BFH. Today, Sarah has graduated from the ceramics program and is building a nest egg from her pottery sales to open her own store. More importantly, she has dedicated her life to the Lord and found solace from the trauma she endured as a human trafficking survivor.
Children in Foster Care
Every year, at Send Relief’s ministry center in Valdosta, Georgia, Pastor Jay Watkins’ church and surrounding congregations band together to serve foster children and their families at Christmas.
Through hosting elaborate light shows and gifting families with free Christmas presents, Watkins and church volunteers give hundreds of children in foster care a memorable Christmas and a real look at what the living gospel looks like in action.
Every child goes home having been prayed for and blessed with a backpack of back-to-school necessities, which many of the foster families could not afford otherwise. After the festivities, each family has the option to hear a gospel presentation and submit prayer requests that are weighing on their hearts. Send Relief’s ministry center hosts these transformative events for foster families every December!
Published December 17, 2021