NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a local utility company in one of
southeastern Europe’s Balkan countries shut off electricity to poor
neighborhoods this past winter, Southern Baptists stepped in to help.
And when those same families had trouble finding food this spring,
community leaders knew where to turn.
situation this past winter was desperate,” said Edward Vaughan*, a
Southern Baptist field partner in the area. “Members of the minority
group here are severely below the poverty line. Unemployment is very
high and families have very little by way of finances.
many families couldn’t pay their utility bills, the local electric
company shut off their power for much of the day,” he added. “With the
high temperatures in the low 40s and lows in the 20s — and little or
no heat in the home — children were coming to school with frostbite
issues. The head of a local school asked if we could help.”
emergency request for $22,220 in relief funds was sent out to purchase
firewood for about 100 families to make it through the last 10 weeks of
winter. Families who received the assistance worked together as a
community to cut, stack and deliver the wood.
At the time,
Vaughan asked Southern Baptists to pray that the outreach would
establish trusting relationships with local officials and that people
would see that Southern Baptists care about them physically and
The region is one where gestures of kindness are
too few and far between, said Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in
Europe and the Middle East for Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern
Baptist international relief and development organization.
the 1990s, news reports in the United States were filled with stories
of war in the Balkans. Even today, the capture of fugitive Bosnian Serb
leader Radovan Karadzic is a reminder of the chaos that engulfed the
region when Yugoslavia collapsed. A decade later, Americans still
remember the role their own soldiers played in stabilizing Bosnia and
The ethnic and religious tensions that fueled the
fighting still simmer beneath the surface. In minority communities,
people have little education and few opportunities to work. Providing
for a family can be very difficult.
Because Southern Baptists
had helped with the heating crisis during the winter, community leaders
knew where to turn when hunger problems became acute this spring.
allocation of $24,913.68 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is
purchasing enough food to carry 70 families through four months,
providing staple items like flour, beans, sugar and rice, as well as
eggs, milk soup and cheese. An estimated 500 people will benefit from
Reaching out to this minority people right now is crucial, Shepherd said.
Balkans have become the pit of pain and suffering for a lot of minority
groups since the war,” Shepherd said. “It has become the breeding
ground for a lot of ungodly elements. Organized crime, gangs, drug
trafficking, smuggling and human trafficking have all increased. Areas
of high unemployment and poverty provide the best breeding grounds for
such elements to thrive. Different groups are recruiting for their own
ideological agendas, whether religious or political.”
to the World Hunger Fund go a long way in the Balkans, Shepherd noted.
“For what many families in North America spend on one outing at a
restaurant, we can feed one family for an entire month,” he said.
can make a real difference in people’s lives by feeding families and
providing heat for their homes,” he added. “And we are able to do just
that with these families because Southern Baptists care about people in
need — because of God’s love for us in our need.”
Visit BGR at www.gobgr.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — *Name
changed for security reasons. Kelly is an assistant editor with