Ideological differences were immediately set aside when news of the disastrous earthquake in Armenia reached the United States, marking the first time since the 1940s that the Soviet Union accepted an offer of American aid. Some of that aid will come from Christian organizations.
Within days of the earthquake, World Vision combined efforts with industrialist Armand Hammer to present a $1 million relief gift to Mikhail Gorbachev—$500,000 from the World Vision relief reserve and a matching grant from Hammer. A plane from Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum Corporation also carried World Vision medical supplies on one of the first relief flights into the area.
Subsequently, World Vision sent more than 160,000 pounds of orthopedic supplies, antibiotics, hospital supplies, blankets, and tents, and hoped to raise between $1 million and $2 million more for Armenia through television appeals. In addition, World Vision officials, including president Bob Seiple, visited the disaster site.
“The more the relationship [between the U.S. and the USSR] warms up, the better the chance for the gospel to be spread,” said World Vision spokesman Steve Woodworth. “God uses tragedies like this to break down boundaries, and it gives an opportunity for Christians to reach out and touch the lives of people behind the Iron Curtain,” he said.
Feed the Children president Larry Jones also personally visited the disaster site. Initially, his group sent in 100 tons of medical supplies, blankets, tents, shoes, and food. MAP International contributed more than $500,000 of the medical supplies sent by Feed the Children.
Jones said his group also hopes to stay involved with the lengthy rebuilding process over the next several months. “Ninety percent of Armenia is Christian, and they are looking for God’s ultimate purpose in this tragedy,” Jones said. “I think this is going to be a witness to the entire world.”
World Relief, the relief-and-development arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is also accepting contributions for the Armenian survivors. World Relief hopes to distribute emergency supplies to evangelical churches there and to aid in long-term rehabilitation efforts. “We have been assisting Soviet Christians who are refugees in this country, but now we have the opportunity for the first time to be involved with them on their own soil,” said World Relief’s Jerry Ballard.
The Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board immediately offered $20,000 for relief efforts, and the Baptist World Alliance offered $10,000 to be channeled through the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Baptist officials said additional funds would be made available as Soviet Baptists indicate the needs. Meanwhile, the Soviet government asked Soviet Baptists to visit and care for Armenian children injured in the earthquake.
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