01/19/10 — Church begins work to get help on the way

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Church begins work to get help on the way

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 19, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- By the time news of the earthquake in Haiti hit David Hansley's e-mail inbox Wednesday morning, the executive director of the Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry of the Original Free Will Baptists was already making phone calls.

And on Friday morning, Hansley and ministers from Original Free Will Baptist congregations across North Carolina met with representatives from Mount Olive College to plan their response to one of the most devastating earthquakes in modern history.

The Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry has in the past reached out across the globe to assist in the aftermath of several natural disasters.

The ministry provided assistance following the December 2004 tsunami, and served others closer to home in 2005 when volunteers helped clean up in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita devastated the Gulf Coast.

"The Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry has partnered with and are members of many different movements to bring together this kind of ministry that really is recognized as one of those ministries in a short period of time as a sample ministry and we have been asked and called and shared on many occasions, because God has blessed us to put together a ministry like this in such a short time. It's almost a miracle taking place, and that word gets out fast, so we've been able to share that in many places," Hansley said.

Now the outreach program is turning its sights on Haiti, and organizing people and resources to send aid to the stricken country.

Among other efforts that are still being discussed, the Original Free Will Baptist churches will be working to gather donations to put together emergency recovery kits to send to the needy in Haiti.

The ministry is in the process of setting up donation sites to collect materials for bedding kits containing sheets and blankets, a health and hygiene kit containing towels, soap and toiletries and an infant kit that will contain diapers, baby wipes and other items for young children.

The Disaster Relief Ministry is not an emergency responder, but it is a first responder, and Hansley himself is part of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, which is also currently working on responding to the needs of people in Haiti, he said.

"We are very involved in what's going on, so I'm telling you that so that you'll know we didn't just wake up this morning and decide we're going to do something, and really not understand what our responsibilities are," he told the group of representatives.

The ministry also works with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Association, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, Hansley said.

Original Free Will Baptist representatives from the area also planned to travel to Baxley, Ga., to discuss coordinating plans with congregations in Georgia to have the greatest possible effect for Haiti.

Further efforts to help the earthquake victims are possible. The ministry is a member of the state Inter-faith Response Team, which will be meeting today at the MERCI Mission Center in Goldsboro.

"We all across the state will be meeting there, as we will also be meeting with Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists and all the leaders and representatives from Franklin Graham and Billy Graham and others," Hansley said.

The disaster relief ministry is an important part of the denomination's devotion to evangelism, Hansley said.

"(The Disaster Relief Ministry) is the greatest evangelism tool that we have ever put together in the history of our church. What an opportunity we have to share the gospel all across the country and the world," Hansley said.

Mount Olive College Campus Minister Dr. Greg Day, and Jessica Whitley, representing the college's student government, also attended the meeting Friday and said that students will almost certainly be involved in relief efforts for Haiti.

And in the future, it might be possible students could travel to Haiti on a mission trip, or adopt a location in the country to assist, Day said.

"I am going to talk to (MOC President) Dr. Kerstetter as soon as he returns back here to the college, and I would like for us to make a concerted effort in adopting either a region or a town or a city to be able to go and do exactly that, because this is going to be long term. This is a short-term fix that we're talking about right now, and I really think we should do that. It would be great for the nation of Haiti, but it would also be great for the college to be able to get in and see the rebuilding of a nation," he said.

The disaster relief ministry is also very open to coordinating with area churches of any denomination, Hansley said.

"We have learned that if all these organizations, basically faith-based people, coordinate and come together, that we can accomplish a lot. And it's interesting that in disaster relief response, denominational lines go away. They just absolutely go away. You don't even talk about it, you're just out there working together," he said.

And regardless of how long it takes to help the people of Haiti recover from the earthquake, the ministry will be in it for the long haul.

"We will be here doing as much as we can as long as we can do it," Hansley said.

The Disaster Relief Ministry is looking for donations of the following items for stocking the recovery kits. Each kit will be packaged in a plastic container for distribution. Kits do not need to be assembled before being donated, Hansley said.

Bedding Kit: 2 double bed sheets, 2 pillow cases, 2 pillows, 1 double bed blanket.

Health/Hygiene Kit: 1 hand towel, 1 washcloth, 1 small bath towel, 1 regular comb, 1 nail file/clipper, 1 bar bath-size soap, 1 toothbrush still packaged, 1 toothpaste, 1 small box of Band-Aids, 1 shaving cream, 1 small shampoo, 1 safety razor, 1 deodorant.

Infant Kit: 1 pack disposable diapers, 1 pack baby wipes, 2 pacifiers, 2 bottles, 1 towel and washcloth, 1 can disinfectant spray, 1 small stuffed toy, 1 tube diaper ointment, 1 lotion, 1 baby wash, 1 powder, 1 receiving blanket, 1 changing pad, 1 box disposable bibs.

Drop-off sites are being determined. In the meantime, donated items may be taken to The Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry at 2600 W. Vernon Ave. in Kinston.

The ministry is also accepting monetary donations. Donors are requested to specify that the money should go to Haiti. Donations may be sent to The Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry, 2600 W. Vernon Ave., Kinston, N.C. 28504.

For more information, contact the ministry headquarters in Kinston at (252)-526-9908, or by E-mail at harvestconnection@embarqmail.com.