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Sending help to tsunami victims

The Rev. Drew Willard had his whole Sunday sermon planned. He would preach about the three wise men.

Then the tsunami hit.

When Willard got word of the disaster that killed nearly 140,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes in Asia, he knew he had to revamp his message.

"It's a reminder that as humans, it's not always about us," said Willard, who leads Holiday United Church of Christ. "It just seems so unfair for this (disaster) to happen. Yet it helps bring us together."

This morning, Willard will offer a message of hope and help.

"Just like the three wise men coming to Christ, now with this catastrophe, the world is coming together," said Willard.

Folks at his church are itching to lend a hand, he says. So today Willard will urge them to reach into their wallets and give. The money will be turned over to the denomination's office. Then, it will be forwarded to two charitable organizations to assist the victims.

"God is in the business of picking up the pieces," Willard said. "(The tsunami) is on people's minds. I think (people) want to do something."

The folks at Living Word Church in New Port Richey have decided to do something, too.

For two weeks, church leaders will collect donations. The envelopes marked "relief" will help buy blankets, medical supplies and food for victims.

They'll ship boxes of Bibles, too.

"We see the need of the whole person," said the Rev. Tim Santinga of Living Word. "We want to meet their physical and spiritual needs to make them overcomers of these disasters on Earth."

Funds will go to help Tom Faunce, a missionary who leads Frontline Outreach Ministry. The Michigan group plans to travel to that region to help in the recovery.

During today's worship service, there will be a special prayer related to the disaster, Santinga says.

City Church Center will host a prayer vigil Monday. The vigil and a 21-day fast had long been planned as a way to focus and reflect on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Then the tsunami made it all more relevant.

"The Bible talks about fasting to open our hearts so we can care for other people more than we care for ourselves," said the Rev. Jerry Magliulo of City Church Center in Odessa. "(When you fast) you feel hunger pains, and you empathize with people who are in need."

Magliulo will ask his 100 church members to give a week's salary to the cause. After researching several charitable organizations, Magliulo decided to turn the money over to World Vision, a group dedicated to providing emergency relief to people all over the globe.

"We can promote unity, cooperation and safety," Magliulo said.