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Meager crop threatens lives in Asian valley

ISTANBUL (BP)–An especially meager crop in an isolated valley in Central Asia created a food shortage — and an opportunity for Southern Baptists to help meet the physical needs of approximately 530 families.

At an altitude of almost 11,000 feet, villages in the area have the latest spring and earliest winter in the region. The summer of 2008 was shorter and cooler than normal for the area, and when field partners of Baptist Global Response visited the valley that fall, they saw that about 70 percent of the harvest still had not ripened. A group of villages at the end of the valley faced a harsh early winter. Snow already was falling at altitudes slightly higher than the villages, which are located at 10,800 feet and usually are covered by a meter of snow during the winter months.

In desperation, villagers harvested green wheat in an effort to save something of their crop.

“These people barely have anything,” the project director explained. “They have no medicine, no doctors, and most of the time not enough food to even make it through the year. We heard one story when we were there about a man who went into this past winter with 200 cattle and he came out with only 30. The harshness of this place was truly overwhelming.”

Southern Baptists organized a relief project financed by almost $48,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, in partnership with Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. The provision of basic food items, including flour, rice, cooking oil and small amounts of tea and sugar helped families survive the difficult winter.

In order to reach the villages, the team drove 16 hours on rough mountain roads — a trip the project director said would have taken only three hours if the roads had been paved.

“We began to meet with leaders and elders of about seven different villages to do our surveying [of the needs],” the project director said. “From the way these people treated us, it was as if we were royalty. They helped us with whatever we needed. They offered the little wood that they had in order to make fires for us to keep us warm. They sacrificed the few things they had like it was nothing.”

After a week-long respite following the survey trip, four trucks loaded with food navigated the 16-hour journey. The team faced a number of obstacles in transporting the food to the villages, including several flat tires and washed-out roads.

“After leaping all the hurdles we finally made it back to the valley and began the distribution,” the project director said. “It is hard to put into words the joy that we saw in some of these people. We gave them enough food to make it through a good chunk of the year and words could not display their thankfulness. It was an amazing experience!”

This food assistance project fits into a greater goal of community development in the valley, the project director said. He joyfully described the entire trip as “a journey that would end with about 530 families being able to make it through another year on the food.”

Helping people in dire need as a demonstration of God’s love for all people is a key goal of projects financed by the World Hunger Fund, said Francis Horton, who with his wife, Angie, directs Baptist Global Response work in Central and South Asia.

“Field partners told me it was a party in the valley,” Horton said. “With what has been supplied, they will be carried through until the end of the summer and harvest. The villagers said it was as though God had sent them the food from heaven. It was that unexpected and needed and providential.

“A believer who helped in the project said: ‘The food we gave them was equivalent of raising a dead person to life again. They were near death and looking at leaving the mountains, and we gave them the resources to stay and even, in some cases, to live,'” Horton added. “We are grateful that Southern Baptists are a people who care about people in need. Their gifts to the World Hunger Fund made a life-saving difference for these families.”
June Lucas is a collegiate correspondent for Baptist Global Response. For information on how you can promote the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund in your church, visit worldhungerfund.org.

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  • June Lucas