On a mission to make and grow disciples

Alan Swanson report from Serbia

Posted by Alan Mcknight on May 30, 2014

Alan Swanson, working with Blythswood Care and one of our deacons, has just returned from Serbia which has recently been devastated by floods. We asked Alan to share his experiences with us:

Serbia has a population of just under 8 million people, almost 2 million live in the capital, Belgrade. Last weekend floods devastated the country with 1.7 million being affected, 34 people lost their lives and many more people are still missing. The worst area is Obrenovatc which is 30Km from Belgrade and has almost 40,000 people living there. At one point 90% of the town was under water.

Blythswood Care has worked in Serbia for many years and our key local contact, Pastor Dragisa, coordinates all our work in the nation. I went to see first hand the devastation the floods have brought to so many people. 

The first place I visited was the town of Paracin. We visited a local pastor whose house along with every house in the street had been flooded. Everything in the basement was destroyed. His mother lived in another room in the basement and she has had to move to her other sons in Novi Sad, 5 hours drive away.  Outside every house was furniture, clothes, toys and other household items. Cars doors and boots were open for the sun to dry them out.

We then went to Svilajnac, the second worst affected area. The river Re Sava flows through the town and last weekend it burst its banks resulting in the whole town being flooded. Vetomoirca, a 79 year old widow was in her bed downstairs when water started coming into her house. As it got deeper she had to make her way through the water to go upstairs. She refused to leave her house and was upstairs for 3 days. The water inside her house was 1.5 metres deep. Vetomoirca's late husband had been a church leader and meetings were held in a back area of the house, that too has been destroyed. They were a very talented musical family and it was heart breaking to see all the musical instruments lying in the back garden destroyed.

My Serbian is not very good but one phrase I learned when I went to Serbia first in 1994 was - Bog Te Voli - meaning God loves you.  I shared verses from Psalm 121: ’I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.’ Vetomoirca's eyes lit up. She said she had read that Psalm two days earlier then Dragisa prayed with her. She has lost almost everything she ever owned. She will not leave her house and is now living upstairs. She really appreciated our visit. 

We then went to a gypsy camp in the town of Kragujevac. There are 9 families who used to live under a bridge and are now living in an old garage. Conditions were bad before the floods but now made much worse as a result of the heavy rain. There were many leaks in the roof, no water and few toilets. As it was getting late, we left, but assured them we would be back on Saturday with food. 

That was end of day one in Serbia. I have never seen such devastation in all my life.
People here really do need our support and prayers. 

On Saturday we went to the Metro store and bought food supplies for the families, approximately 65 people, at the gypsy camp.  They were delighted with the flour, oil, pasta, meat, coffee and sugar that was given to them and the kids loved their Jaffa cakes! 

We then met with Igor from the Red Cross for a coffee and he told us about the work they have being doing this past week.  Grtica is a suburb of Kraljevo and over 500 people have been displaced. Some of these people fled Kosovo back in 1999. They lost everything back then and now 15 years later have lost everything again. Many had taken furniture and other items on credit. They will still have to pay for items that have been destroyed.  Very few people have insurance in Serbia. 

Food, Baby food, Hygiene items, Cleaning items, Beds, Couches, Blankets, Electrical items 

Building materials, Paint, Plaster 

I hope this gives some insight to conditions in Serbia and trust we will all continue to highlight the awful conditions and raise support for those who need it most.
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