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2,000 refugees in Georgia fed by Texas relief workers

GORI, Georgia (BP)–Families displaced by fighting in the Black Sea country of Georgia are expressing profound gratitude for a feeding ministry Southern Baptist relief workers are conducting in Gori, a member of the relief team has told Baptist Press.

A seven-member team of disaster relief specialists from Texas Baptist Men cooked hot meals for about 2,000 people who have taken refuge in 18 kindergarten buildings in Gori, the team member reported.

“We are really starting to ramp up the relief operation,” the team member said. “Many of these people have not had a hot meal in more than three weeks.”

As people receive the meals, which are being provided through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, they thank the volunteers profusely, the team member said.

“One lady just could not stop saying, ‘Thank you,'” he said. “One man was crying as he accepted the food.”

One woman who lives near the local Baptist church came to where the volunteers are working and asked for some soup, the team member said. She took it back to her apartment in an old paint bucket. Touched by the fact that she had nothing better to carry the soup in, one of the team members found a teapot near the church, cleaned it up, filled it with soup and took it to the lady’s apartment.

The Texas team left Aug. 27 to set up the feeding operation and are expected to be joined by a seven-member team from the Kentucky Baptist Convention scheduled to depart Sept. 4 and a 10-member team from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma leaving Sept. 7, according to Jim Brown, U.S. director of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization.

Each team is expected to be on the ground roughly 10 days, Brown said. Before the Texas team leaves, a total of 24 Southern Baptist specialists will be in Georgia at the same time.

The responsibility of cooking for refugees housed in the kindergarten buildings is expected to be turned over to the Italian Red Cross, the team member noted. When that happens, Southern Baptists will turn their attention to converting a building shell owned by the church into a soup kitchen for the refugees.

Dealing with the multitude of details involved in conducting a relief effort has been difficult, but it is worth it to see the joy and hope in people’s eyes, the team member said.

“It’s an adventure, but it’s been challenging,” he said. “God is stretching our faith and showing Himself faithful. We’re looking forward to seeing what God will do here.”

Relief workers on the ground in Gori asked for prayer on several counts.

“Please pray for logistics. We’ve had some interesting dealings with other humanitarian aid organizations,” the team member said. “And pray the good relationships with the Georgian government and the Georgian Red Cross would continue.

“We’d also ask people to pray for the delivery of food,” he added. “Delivering food to the 18 kindergartens today was kind of challenging. If we also start feeding at the private homes where refugees are staying, that difficulty could easily multiply.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at gobgr.org.

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