Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Eddy Ruble, who serves in Southeast Asia alongside his wife, Cindy. You can learn more about and support their ministries at www.cbf.net/ruble.
Disaster response work is generally a challenging series of responses to a specific calamity—be it an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, or famine. There is generally a pretty clear impact from the disaster and a clear humanitarian need necessitating a response.
As people of faith, we follow a divine calling to come alongside and assist those in need. In the parable of the good Samaritan, God’s love is manifested by the Samaritan man who stopped to look and see the man beaten and bloodied lying beside the road. He treated his wounds, placed the man on his donkey and took him to an Inn where he could recuperate and regain his health.
The Divine calls us to reach out with care and compassion for those suffering—especially when lives have been dramatically thrown into disarray by a calamity. CBF disaster response is activated when a calamity is beyond a community’s ability to respond and recover and we have ongoing relationships and partners in the affected communities.
Some disasters are so extensive, they dominate regional and global media, generating a universal outpouring of compassion and impetus to help—Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2004 Asian Tsunami come to mind. Such extensive damage, lives lost and disrupted, mandate a near global outreach assistance to the affected people and communities. Immediate humanitarian needs of water, food, shelter and medical care are followed by the trauma and psycho-social needs for people and communities recovering and rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. Infrastructure and rebuilding of homes and communities can take years and come with an extensive economic investment.
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus which has infected populations in every region of the world. Severe outbreaks have spiked in cities and regions in China, Europe, the Middle East, the United States, South America, and India. The world now lives with the ever-threatening potential for an epidemic to arise anywhere there are active cases and widespread exposure. People across the world are adjusting and learning to live with restricted contact and exposure to those around them—wearing face masks and keeping a physical distance are the prevailing precautions used to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Travel and large gatherings have been dramatically reduced across the globe. Factories and offices have closed and shifted to work-from-home where possible, while schools have closed or severely altered their schedules. We are now at the 9-month mark of what could be a multi-year pandemic.
The myriad of symptoms and complications add an element of mystery and complexity to this highly contagious disease which can be deadly, particularly for older adults and those with underlying health conditions.
The closure of work places, schools, restaurants, and entertainment venues brings an undercurrent of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, mixed with economic chaos. International travel has all but come to a grinding halt as countries close their borders to foreign visitors until there is a way to verify that travelers are Coronavirus free. The poor and those in the developing world will be most heavily impacted by the global recession and loss of income. The ensuing economic crisis affects both the supply chain and the consumer side of the economy which will make it a long and difficult recovery.
CBF field personnel reach out locally where they serve around the globe in their work to alleviate the most critical human needs in their communities, including the psychosocial and spiritual needs. Increasingly, the medical and humanitarian needs created by this pandemic will be greater than our capacity to respond.
As field personnel and as an organization, CBF leans heavily on collaboration and partnerships to accomplish more together than we could individually. In disaster response work, CBF is working through the Baptist Forum for Relief and Development, an arm of the Baptist World Alliance, to collaborate with fellow Baptists to identify, resource, and address critical needs. Significant proposals are currently being reviewed for assistance to refugees in the Middle East and Greece along with smaller church-based projects in the developing world.