Snowbound villagers see God’s love in rescue efforts
BUCHAREST, Romania — An unusually harsh winter across Europe and Central Asia has caused suffering and hardship for millions of people -- but also created opportunities to demonstrate God’s love for people in need. The amazing relief efforts undertaken included hand-digging tunnels through deep snow and shoveling out remote mountain passes by hand.
Brutal cold and heavy snowfall across the vast region killed scores of people and trapped thousands in remote mountain areas, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response.
“From Ireland to Tajikistan, people struggled to cope with the weather,” Palmer said. “Power outages were common, roads and airports were closed, and families in remote areas were unable to get food. Fortunately, Southern Baptists already had provided hunger and disaster relief funds to meet many needs.”
In one area of Central Asia, a public health spokesman said 40 deaths were recorded in one month -- most of them children in refugee camps, where families were trying to survive without decent shelter, blankets, fuel, food, warm clothes or shoes.
In Romania, a BGR partner used Facebook to assemble a team of 16 people to help residents of a village that had been completely buried in snow.
“The team took shovels and food packets purchased with Southern Baptist disaster relief funds and set out for the village,” said Abraham Shepherd, who with his wife, Grace, directs BGR work in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. “The villagers were old and unable to remove the snow by themselves. Team members dug tunnels in the snow to give village residents access to outbuildings and livestock barns.
“These people experienced the tangible love of God's people for their neighbors, in digging out the houses and providing some basic necessities,” Shepherd added. “Southern Baptists need to know their giving makes a significant impact, helping many communities experience God's love in a time of need.”
In Tajikistan, a BGR partner used $2,000 from the World Hunger Fund to help a tiny mountain village cut off from food supplies by an avalanche.
“Life in this village already was hard in the winter,” said Francis Horton, who with his wife, Angie, directs BGR work in Central and South Asia. “The windows in the houses don’t have glass in them. Deep snow cuts off access to the outside world, and by the end of the winter families are living on the edge of starvation. Then an avalanche roars down off the mountain and flattens several homes.”
Nineteen households -- about 150 people -- received immediate food assistance consisting of flour, rice, and cooking oil that was delivered with the assistance of local police, Horton said. When warmer spring temperatures melt off the snow mass, BGR partners will assess the need for help repairing ruined buildings.
In another country of Central Asia, about 600 men dug out miles of snowbound roads by hand to open the way for a city and outlying towns to receive food aid.
“This is one of the most rugged, isolated, and impoverished areas in Central Asia. Every year, the people are cut off from the outside world by heavy snow in the mountain passes. Many people suffer and die because they are unable to get food or medical care,” Horton said. “This winter was even more severe than usual. Widows, disabled people, and the elderly were in desperate need of food and medical aid. The crisis was complicated by the fact that a severe drought this past year had ruined crops families needed to get through the winter.”
Using about $70,000 from the World Hunger Fund, men from four villages walked three miles through the snow to get to the mountain passes, where they shoveled snow by hand so supplies could get into the city, Horton said. Opening the way for medical care meant a small clinic in one villages could replace its completely depleted supply of antibiotics and that women experiencing complications with their pregnancies were able to get help that likely saved their babies lives.
“This project allowed men to feel a sense of dignity and self-worth because they were working to provide for their families and help their communities,” Horton said. “People in the area also realized that followers of Jesus loved them and cared for their wellbeing.
“We are very grateful to the churches and individuals that contribute to the World Hunger Fund,” Horton said. “They can be assured that this project was performed prayerfully and with careful stewardship of each dollar spent. Many people have experienced the love of God and had their hearts softened toward people they previously believed were not their friends.”
BGR partners across the region asked followers of Jesus to pray for the peace and wellbeing of those who have received the assistance and ask God to work through these projects to help them find the abundant, meaningful life he created them to enjoy.