By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has raised more than $25,000 to provide emergency support to unaccompanied children and immigrant families from Central America. In July, CBF launched CBF CARES (Children and Refugee Emergency Support), an effort to raise funds to meet the needs of children crossing into the United States from Mexico, seeking refuge from poverty and violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Cooperative Baptists have contributed $25,373.55 to the CBF CARES effort. To date, CBF has distributed $18,000 in emergency support to assist these children and their families, including $5,000 to the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association to cover the acquisition and operation of a mobile medical clinic that the association purchased earlier in the year. Since May, the mobile clinic has operated in the city of Brownsville, Texas, where it has served as a medical screening and treatment facility for the refugee relief process.
The Rio Grande Valley Food Bank received $3,000 to support its efforts at the U.S. southern border. The food bank has been used as the collection and distribution point for all donated goods coming into the Rio Grande Valley, providing clothes and food for thousands of immigrants. CBF CARES funds will be used to help offset the expenses of operating this massive relief project.
An additional $1,500 was allocated to the Salvation Army of Hidalgo County. In June, CBF sent an initial $5,000 donation to the Salvation Army to purchase pallets of bottled water to supply its mobile kitchen with drinking water. The kitchen has provided food and water to thousands of refugees over the past four months.
First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga., a CBF-partner congregation located in north Georgia, has received $3,500 from the CBF CARES fund to cover the costs of shoes and coats for Central American immigrants relocated to Dalton, Ga. FBC Dalton has also supported the “Newcomer Academy” of the Dalton Public Schools district, where these children are enrolled, with reading materials, printers and other school supplies. The church contributed an additional $5,300 for these and other determined needs.
Courtney Allen, minister of community ministry and missions, expressed her appreciation for the support of Cooperative Baptists and partnership with CBF to make a difference in the lives of these immigrant children.
“This Fall, FBC Dalton has had the unique opportunity to engage some of our newest neighbors, often referred to as ‘unaccompanied minors.’ FBC Dalton and CBF have directly impacted 45 children, ranging in age from 11 to 19, by partnering with the Newcomer Academy, a specialized learning environment to meet the needs of students who have had little to no formal education,” Allen said. “The most basic things — socks, underwear and new tennis shoes — have helped these students know they are loved, welcomed and beloved by the people of God at FBC Dalton and our larger Baptist world.
“We give great thanks for the support, partnership and affirmation of a ministry opportunity we didn’t expect, but thankfully have been able to respond to and engage in. We are excited about the relationships our congregation continues to form with our newcomer neighbors through mentoring, reading together and volunteering in the classrooms.”
Stephen Reeves, associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy for CBF, praised the response of Cooperative Baptists to help meet the needs of these newcomers.
“The compassionate response by the CBF community to these children and families shows that our love of neighbor extends across borders and beyond legal status,” Reeves said. “These gifts will be used to help not only the first responders meeting immediate needs, but also those far from the border trying to adjust to life in a foreign land. We should all be encouraged by the model of FBC Dalton to reach out and find new ways to minister to the strangers in our midst.”
Tommy Deal, CBF’s U.S. Disaster Response director, commended Diann Whisnand, who serves as one of CBF’s field personnel in the Rio Grande Valley, for her role in facilitating the distribution of CBF CARES funds at the border to partners in the region.
“Early this summer we all were inundated by the news of these children crossing the border after long, arduous and dangerous journeys,” Deal said. “What was ‘just a border problem’ became real to us as faces of innocent children seeking life and freedom were seen. We have had a great representative in place in Diann Whisnand as well as incredible partners throughout the region with whom we have worked.”
In addition to the CBF CARES effort, Cooperative Baptists have also made generous donations of gift cards to Whisnand, who has focused much of her time on ministering to refugees and connecting with aid volunteers and agencies in McAllen, Texas, to determine where CBF can best make a long-term impact to support these immigrants. Whisnand said she has been overwhelmed by the compassion and generosity of individuals and churches from across CBF.
“I am so grateful to be a part of the Fellowship, a fellowship of people who are quick to ask how they can help. Thanks be to God,” Whisnand said.
Donations to CBF CARES will continue to be distributed to organizations and churches ministering with these immigrant children and their families. Donations may be made online at www.thefellowship.info/cbfcares or by mailing a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17027 in the memo line to:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
P.O. Box 102972
Atlanta, GA 30368-2972
For more information on how you or your congregation can help, please contact Tommy Deal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.