“They arrived hungry and cold asking ‘where am I’ and wondering how long they would be in this camp… They were the face of humanity, longing to be treated as humans. Their faces were streaked with tears, whether from the cold or something far greater, I do not know. All I know is our tears came from overwhelming love, breathtaking grief and bottomless compassion.”
Those words were written by a friend who is currently serving in the Slavonski Brod camp at the Serbian/Croatian border. She and a team from First Baptist, Richmond are doing what they can to meet the needs of the scores of people (approximately 6,000 per day) who arrive there in a desperate search for refuge, help and hope. Some of the team members have been posting updates and they have given me permission to share them with you. It depicts real people in the midst of great hardship. Please take a moment to look. What is happening there is important. These people are all of us. I urge you to not turn away. ~Jennifer
Posted by Ann Whitfield Carter at Washington Dulles International Airport, Sunday, November 1, 10;30pm •
A week ago I had no idea I would be on a plane headed to Istanbul tonight. But opportunity knocks and I can’t say no. I will be spending a week on the Serbia/Croatia border working in a Syrian refugee camp. 5,000 people steam through there a day looking for some food, some rest, and medical attention before they continue their journey. Grateful for a church that cares about the world and sends people to help meet the most basic human needs: safety, food, rest.
Posted by Ann, November 3 at 1:37am • Osijek, Croatia •
No sleep yet. My mind is racing. Elvis, a Bosnian born seminary student, along with his cohorts Evan and Miki picked us up from the airport. Because I tend toward car sickness, I rode shotgun and heard the most amazing story on our three hour drive (the one benefit to motion sickness!) This summer, Elvis and his friends had been gathering supplies through their local church for some community service project or other. The Syrian refugee crisis happened before they put their supplies to use. So Elvis and his friends went down to the Serbian border with their supplies and began handing out supplies. Local police who were trying to manage the flow of humanity began to work along side these young men to serve the refugees. Pretty soon, local government, UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Catholic Church were pooling their resources together, and a camp was formed. (They are opening a second camp this week) That was 90 days ago. Today’s trip to Budapest to pick us up was their first time away from the camps since then.
THAT, my friends, IS WHAT THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO DO. To be the hands and feet of Christ, seeing needs, being the first to generously share their resources, and welcome partners into the process of meeting those needs.
I am amazed by these young men – they are courageous leaders. Our world is a better place because Elvis and Miki and Evan are in it.
Posted by Ann, Tuesday, November 3 in Osijek •
Posted by Ann, November 3 at 6:57pm • Oriovac, Croatia •
Tomorrow morning, a new camp is opening in Slavonsky Brod. Today, a train filled with refugees came for a trial run before the real thing tomorrow. Tonight, Steve Blanchard, Jeff Dortch (Jeannie), Lisa Tuck and I will work from 10-7 helping the camp put the final preparations in place. They will begin to receive refugees first thing in the morning. This camp will be better equipped for the winter months. The refugees don’t have to walk to get here, they can take a train. They can wait to register in the warmth of a train car rather than outside in the cold. There are a few winterized tents that will not only protect from the elements, but will keep them warmer than the summer tents at the other camp. This is a major endeavor, yet the organization is impressive. Volunteers from Caritas, Jesuite Refugee Services, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Samaritan’s Purse, local police, and the Croatia Baptist Aid are working together to warmly welcome the 5,000 plus refugees who stream through here each day.
Elvis story of the day: He said something at dinner about “failing forward.” I asked him what that meant and he said that when something needs to be done and you don’t know how to do it, you have to start somewhere and just keep adapting and adjusting until it works. When you try to do something this big, you can’t be afraid to fail – because you are going to fail. You just have to keep failing until you succeed. Truth.
So now I am going to sleep before I pull an all nighter!
Posted by Ann, Wednesday, November 4, 4:40am, • Lovas, Croatia•
A 4am train filled with 1200 precious humans. Next stop Zagreb.
Comment by Steve: “Such an eerie representation of human suffering as refugees debark from trains at Croatian camp” Continue reading