News Articles

Compassion for Kosovar refugees etched into hearts of pastor, wife

KENNEWICK, Wash. (BP)–It was three weeks after their return from ministering to war-ravaged Kosovo refugees in Albania before Dwight and Judy Huffman were able to speak comfortably of their experiences.
The Huffmans, on their first international missions trip in May, served as part of a small group from Strategic World Impact (SWI) founded by Oklahoma Baptist Kevin Turner to minister in the world’s hot spots.
“I’ve been in survival mode ever since we returned,” Huffman reflected. “One of the things you really struggle with when you come back is this tremendous guilt. God has given us so much. It just blows my mind how much we have and how much they don’t have.”
The Huffmans were invited to join SWI’s Albania-bound initial response team because Kennewick (Wash.) Baptist Church, where Huffman is pastor, donated more than $1,200 to help SWI pay shipping costs for refugee-bound food and clothing.
Judy Huffman, vividly describing the culture they encountered, recounted, “As soon as we crossed into Albania it was a shock, like we had crossed back into time. Women were working in the fields with hoes. There were guards with guns all around us and yelling in another language.”
She described crowded conditions in formerly empty warehouses and blank stares from people who were on the other side of mental anguish.
“One of the counselors told us later that the Kosovars needed people to talk to and tell their story to,” Judy Huffman said. “I didn’t think we were doing much when we did that, but that’s part of the healing process, the counselor said.”
The second day (not counting the three days it took to get to Albania by plane, truck and bus) the Strategic World Impact group went to Tirana, the capital city. The men went on to a border town that was deemed too dangerous for Judy Huffman and another female team member.
“I knew God must have something he wanted us to do,” Judy Huffman recounted. “I prayed specifically he would help us find the Jesus film that day in the Albanian language.”
God had an ever bigger plan.
“Sure enough,” Judy Huffman said. “That morning God led us to a Campus Crusade woman who had been there a year. She said we could be their pilot project.” Campus Crusade for Christ is the organization that produces the Jesus film from the New Testament Book of Luke, which can now be viewed in more than 500 languages.
Rather than Albanian, their second language, this Jesus film was in their heart language. Recently completed, it was probably the first time the Jesus film was shown in the Kosovar language.
One refugee woman donated the use of a white sheet for a screen; several others used their blankets to cover cobweb-laden windows to block out the sunlight.
Judy Huffman said her compassion for people deepened and her world vision expanded as a result of her mission trip to Albania. Dwight Huffman spoke of how Americans can help in a region 7,000 feet above sea level, where all too soon it will be winter and unending zero degree temperatures.
Believers could help in the rebuilding, he said. Churches might sprout in the midst of a field of home-building done by Southern Baptist volunteer construction teams.
The Southern Baptist International Mission Board, meanwhile, is mobilizing churches to collect new blankets to keep people from suffering so much this winter.
Under the theme, “Blanket Kosovo with Love,” the IMB is seeking new blankets of any size — wool, Vellux or thermal blankets, but not cotton because cotton isn’t warm enough for the climate.
“We only have until mid-September to get a shipment off to Kosovo if it’s going to get there in time to do any good,” said Jim Brown, the IMB’s human needs consultant. “We need to respond immediately.”
The blankets will be labeled, “God bless you,” in Albanian and will say, “Southern Baptists in America’s Love Gifts to Kosovo” in English.
Baptist Men and Woman’s Missionary Union leaders in each state are being asked to coordinate state and local collection points, but a central warehouse in Richmond, Va., has been established, Brown said.
Congregations and individuals who do not have access to a state or local collection station may send their blankets to: Kosovo Project, c/o Eagle USA, 5762 Charles City Circle, Richmond, VA 23231. Donations must arrive at that address before Sept. 15. Blankets will be repacked there for shipment overseas.
Churches planning to establish collection points should relay that information to the International Mission Board so human needs workers can help callers locate a collection point near them, Brown said. To contact the human needs office, call toll-free 800-999-3113, ext. 1675 or ext. 1736.
“One of the things that happens in Albania is that you begin to question your values,” Dwight Huffman said. “Never again will I view a loaf of bread in the same way.
“One of the things God has been saying to me is, ‘You don’t appreciate the gospel because it costs you nothing,’” the pastor said. “In Albania, I got some sense of what it costs to share the gospel in remote areas of the world. Another thing God has been saying to me is, ‘Don’t take for granted your freedom to share the gospel. It’s not free everywhere. Lead your church to share the gospel faithfully, appropriately, compassionately, but do it. It may be free now but it may not always be free.’”

    About the Author

  • Karen Willoughby