Published April 5, 2012
ST. MARYS — Fifteen months after the worst earthquake in decades shattered the lives of residents of Haiti, the media spotlight has moved elsewhere. The world has largely forgotten the devastated island nation. But one pastor has not.
Steve Kegley, pastor of First Baptist Church of St. Marys, is praying that his fellow Georgia Baptists haves not forgotten either. And as the $1,561,461 in disaster relief funds which they gave dwindles to less than $30,000 the pressure is on to find a way to continue the ministry.
Kegley, whose church participated on a May and September 2011 mission trip to the Caribbean nation, is asking for 100 Georgia Baptist churches to contribute $1,000 to continue the ministry that is being phased out.
Unfortunately, only a dozen have responded since he and other concerned individuals formed the non-profit Baptists4Haiti ministry. The church commissioned staff member Roland Norris as the onsite missionary to oversee the work and establish a six-member board, with Kegley as advisor, to oversee the fundraising.
The ministry has the endorsement of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
But the clock is ticking and the window of opportunity may close by the end of the year if others fail to respond.
Baptists4Haiti is picking up where the state convention is phasing out of the project. The ministry has contracted with the GBC to use the Georgia House, a building which has housed volunteers during the recovery efforts, and has retained the same infrastructure regarding the housekeepers, cooks, drivers, translators, and security personnel.
The base of operations at the Georgia House in Leogane is just a few miles from the epicenter of the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck in January 2010.
“We can house 24 volunteers a week and send them out in teams of eight to meet needs ranging from construction, teaching, medical/dental, and preaching,” Kegley explained. The teams are divided into groups of eight because that is the maximum number who can travel in the vehicles and still provide room for a translator and a bodyguard.
“Georgia Baptists have given generously through our disaster relief efforts but we need a staff member on the ground to oversee the ongoing ministry. If we don’t meet our goal of 100 churches very soon we will have to bring the missionary home and turn over any remaining funds to the state convention,” Kegley said.
“We are limping along right now to keep Roland on site and are praying for others to walk alongside us.
“Out of 3,600 Georgia Baptist churches we are only asking for 100 to be the hands and feet of Christ in Haiti. I personally thought we would hear from 300 without too much effort but that is not happening.”
Kegley said that Baptists4Haiti is also needing volunteers, but that will be a moot point if the sponsoring churches do not materialize.
“The $1,300 for a team member to serve is a bargain. Half of that is for airfare and the remainder is for room and board and all in-country transportation expenses. If we do hear from those remaining 88 churches we will be able to cover all costs except for the airfare.”
The soft-spoken Kegley, who serves on the GBC Executive Committee, said the state convention has allocated $23,000 from existing disaster relief funds to keep the Georgia House rented and staffed through 2012.
“We will be responsible for all costs for 2013 and beyond. If we don’t raise the funds we will, in keeping with our bylaws, turn any remaining funds over to the Georgia Baptist Convention and dissolve the ministry.
“I’d hate to think we would have to do that and we don’t feel that is what the Lord would have us to do. The needs are too great and there are too many lives that desperately need to hear about Christ.”
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