Beliefnet
WASHINGTON (RNS)--Kenton Moody has never seen his home crumble in anearthquake. He has never watched flood waters sweep away hispossessions, nor seen his neighborhood buried under avalanches of mud.

But time and time again he has cast his lot with those who have.

As director of international relief for Convoy of Hope, anindependent international relief ministry that draws much support fromthe Assemblies of God, he has visited nearly a dozen countries in asmany years, each time in the aftermath of some disaster.

"I went with a team to Venezuela after the flood, and we sawliterally hundreds of homes buried under mud," said Moody, referring tothe mudslides and record rainfall that killed as many as 30,000 peoplein Venezuela in December.

"We had just finished touring one of theneighborhoods out beyond the airport in Caracas and we were gettingready to go back to the van, and one missionary wandered over to thecliff. He saw a severed human hand lying in the mud. Just lying there.Things like that bring back the reality of how real these disastersare."

Real indeed.

In the last four months of 1999 alone, more than a half-dozennatural disasters left trails of devastation around the globe--fromfloods and mudslides in Mexico, Vietnam and Venezuela, to cyclones inIndia, to earthquakes in Turkey and Colombia, to the hurricanes thatswept through the Caribbean and eastern seaboard of the United States.

In the wake of each calamity, faith-based organizations sprang intoaction.

For example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America'sInternational Disaster Response team launched a $275,000 disaster reliefeffort in China, Nicaragua and Venezuela providing food, medicine,drinking water and emergency shelter.

Southern Baptists dispatched aidto Kosovo, distributing wood-burning stoves to families and helpingbuild roofs on homes damaged during the war. In West Timor, theAdventist Development and Relief Agency set up temporary housing forEast Timor refugees fleeing violence.

It also distributed blankets to Turkish earthquake victims and teamed upwith Turkish Protestant Churches to deliver food packages.

Earthquake survivors in Turkey also got a helping hand from theUnited Methodist Committee on Relief, which built temporary housing nearthe earthquake's epicenter at Izmit.

As disaster victims in each country begin the slow process ofreassembling their lives, some religious disaster relief agencies arestill reeling from the impact of last year's disasters, while trying toprepare for what may loom ahead.

"I don't know that we've ever seen the slate of disasters that camewithin (the) period from November (1998) to December (1999)," saidMoody. "We did have a little lull (last) fall that allowed us to catchour breath. Other agencies we talked to couldn't believe it--just asthey riled up for one disaster, here comes another."

Two months into the new year, Convoy of Hope is still recoveringfinancially from last year's spate of disasters. The group was involvedin disaster relief efforts in 36 countries last year, from Kosovo to theSudan, said Moody.

"It tapped our treasury, definitely," he said. "Financially, it'sbeen a difficult year. We're operating on a shoestring budget right now.But we go out and look for whatever we can get. And sometimes you justhave to operate on faith. We went to Venezuela without any budget, butwe felt like we had to respond immediately."

World Relief, the international aid arm of the National Associationof Evangelicals, also watched its coffers drain as the agency respondedto disasters in 37 countries--up from 21 countries the year before,said World Relief president Clive Calver.

"It was dreadful," said Calver, who personally visited a number ofthe disaster-stricken areas. "A lot of those places were just absolutelydestroyed. There were so many places that needed our help."

While International Aid, a Michigan-based Christian relief agency,spent $74 million last year in disaster relief efforts--includinghelping North Carolinians whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Floyd--disaster relief coordinator Sonny Enriquez said the agency is alreadyplanning for what disasters may lie ahead by increasing its fund-raisingefforts.

"It's not that easy for us to fund raise," he said, noting theagency depends heavily on contributions from individuals and churches."We have to really continue knocking on doors this year, but the fasterwe get the resources the faster we can build up our capacity to respondto disaster situations on a global basis."

Convoy of Hope is doubling its stock of emergency food supplies toprepare for the months ahead, said Moody.

"We're just moving into a new warehouse (with) nearly 300,000 squarefeet," he said. "It's our goal to have 5 million pounds of goods andsupplies on hand to be ready in case of disasters."

In addition to increasing its staff, World Relief is gearing up fordisasters in the months ahead by devising plans to help churches tosound the alert more quickly when disasters occur, said Calver.

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