Monday, January 10, 2005

Conversion Rates

Apparently, some evangelical Christians are tickled pink at the opportunity to spread their faith provided to them by God through the tsunami.

"This (disaster) is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people," said K.P. Yohannan, president of the Texas-based Gospel for Asia. In an interview, Yohannan said his 14,500 "native missionaries" in India, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands are giving survivors Bibles and booklets about "how to find hope in this time through the word of God."

In Krabi, Thailand, a Southern Baptist church had been "praying for a way to make inroads" with a particular ethnic group of fishermen, according to Southern Baptist relief coordinator Pat Julian. Then came the tsunami, "a phenomenal opportunity" to provide ministry and care, Julian told the Baptist Press news service.

In Andhra Pradesh, India, a plan is developing to build "Christian communities" to replace destroyed seashore villages. In a dispatch that the evangelical group Focus on the Family posted on its Family.org Web site, James Rebbavarapu of India Christian Ministries said a team of U.S. engineers had agreed to help design villages of up to 400 homes each, "with a church building in the center of them."

At least not all evangelicals are onboard this crazy train.

"It's not appropriate in a crisis like this to take advantage of people who are hurting and suffering," said the Rev. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan's Purse and son of evangelist Billy Graham.

Samaritan's Purse is rushing $4 million in sanitation, food, medical and housing supplies to its teams in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. But Graham, in a phone interview from his North Carolina headquarters, said there were no plans to hand out Christian literature with the relief.

"Maybe another day, if they ask why I come, I'd say, `I'm a Christian and I believe the Bible tells me to do this,'" Graham said. "But now isn't the time. We have to save lives."