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Golden Gate, Southwestern join forces to aid Kosovar refugees

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Eleven students from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are joining forces on a mission trip this spring and summer to help distribute aid in Albania to Kosovar refugees.
“It means the world to the Kosovars whenever anyone reaches out to them no matter where they are,” said Amanda Barger, a Golden Gate intercultural studies student who served as an International Service Corps worker in Albania from 1994-96 with the International Mission Board (IMB). “They reach out and give in such a huge way as a culture, and we encourage everyone to reach out to Kosovars in their own areas.”
Barger and Mark Hinton, a Golden Gate master of divinity student who served in Albania as an IMB journeyman from 1995-97, will lead the team to Tirana, the Albanian capital, to work with missionary Lee Bradley in distributing aid to Kosovar refugees living in Albanian homes. The team will stock a Baptist-owned warehouse in Tirana with supplies, fill family care boxes and distribute them either directly or through local churches.
“Albanians are housing up to half of the Kosovar refugees in their country,” Hinton said. “Albania is also the poorest country in Europe, so these families are going on faith to keep sometimes 10 to 15 refugees in their tiny homes.”
The team members, including Golden Gate student Rachel Maw and Southwestern student Paula Chaney, also former Southern Baptist workers in Albania, are going out for as little as two weeks and as long as six months. The first wave of students leaves May 28.
“Since we have experienced the culture and can speak the language, the field personnel in Albania have asked us to return,” Barger said. “They want some of the team members to have experience in transport and familiarity with the area so we can get right to work with the refugees.”
This team is one of 17 mission teams going out from Golden Gate Seminary through the seminary’s David and Faith Kim School of Intercultural Studies. Working mostly with unreached people groups, the teams are traveling to as diverse places as France, Germany, Russia, Central Asia and closed countries in North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. To join the teams, more than 130 seminary, college and high school students throughout the country are raising their own financial support, including those on the Albania team.
“Our team has had the least amount of time to raise support because of the sudden need,” Hinton said. Funds sent to Golden Gate Seminary for the project will go to support team members’ travel to the region, with extra funds buying aid for the Kosovars.
“We really need spiritual fervor and strength,” Barger said. “Hearing all the sad stories from the refugees will be disturbing, and I can get into feeling their pain. But God has been telling me lately that I need to remind them that he is the hope they need and he offers healing. I’ll listen and I’ll mourn with them, but we need to combat despair with hope and fear with rejoicing.”
This trip will be especially rewarding for Hinton. After serving as a journeyman in Albania for more than a year, he had to leave the country when civil unrest followed the failure of financial pyramid schemes in spring 1997. He waited out the rest of his two-year term in Bosnia and Hungary.
“The need is the primary reason I’m going back, but finding a bit of closure is a secondary benefit for me,” he said. “When these moneymaking operations collapsed and left many with no life savings, we didn’t have much time to get out with all the riots, and I could not say goodbye to most of my Albanian friends.”
He is looking forward to seeing some of them and to observe what God has done in Albania since he and Amanda traveled around the country showing the “Jesus” film in villages and following up with discipleship classes. “My time in Albania was the most incredible personal time with God I’d ever had because of the evidence of his work and presence,” he said. “One-and-a-half years after we started evangelizing and discipling, we had baptized 20 new believers and had 100 Christian villagers celebrate Christmas with us.”
Other team members include Golden Gate students Mandy Hinton, Debi Wheeler and Lisa Rodriguez, and Southwestern students Chad and Leslie Segraves and Mark and Jennifer Smith.
Tax-deductible gifts marked for the Albania team can be sent to Golden Gate Seminary, 201 Seminary Drive, Mill Valley, CA. 94941. Donors must write “To SiiP Fund-Albania.”

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