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Texas Baptists plan relief for refugees from Kosovo

DALLAS (BP)–The Texas Baptist Men missions organization is sending a dozen relief volunteers to Albania to purify water, distribute food, and provide medical aid for refugees fleeing the conflict in Kosovo.
A representative from Campus Crusade who is coordinating refugee response for the Albanian Evangelical Association asked TBM, affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, to set up refugee camps in Korce and Peshkopia, Albania.
Working in cooperation with Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, the Texas Baptist volunteers will be responsible for helping Albanian Christians set up the camps, including systems of sanitation, medical care, and food and water distribution.
“Our mission is to assist Albanian Christians as they provide assistance to the refugees from Kosovo,” said Jim Furgerson, executive director of Texas Baptist Men. “We will help them develop ministry centers and equip them to maintain the ministry indefinitely.”
The team expects to leave Dallas on April 14 and will spend two weeks in Albania, Furgerson added.
The United Nations refugee agency reported about 360,000 people had fled Kosovo since NATO bombing began on March 24, with two-thirds of them crossing the border into Albania. The agency estimated that the number could rise to more than 650,000.
The Texas Baptist relief teams include three volunteers who worked in the Kurdish refugee camps of Turkey and Iran following Operation Desert Storm. They are team leader Larry Blanchard from First Baptist Church, Lindale and physicians Robert Mann of Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington and Dick Hurst of First Baptist Church, Tyler.
Five others helped to operate base camps in Albania for Campus Crusade and Baptist Student Ministry volunteers who took the “Jesus” film to remote villages. They are Gary Smith and Cotton Bridges from First Baptist Church of Plano; Dan Hogan of Calvary Baptist Church, Texas City; David Carpenter, formerly an Albania-based representative for Cooperative Services International, now with All Peoples in Waco, and his son, T.J.
Other Texas Baptists joining the relief effort in Albania are John Bullock, state director of children and youth missions and ministries; Joe Ragan, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth; Dick Jenkins from Hunters Glen Baptist Church, Plano; and Brad Mann from Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington.
TBM leaders responded to the invitation from the Albanian Evangelical Association as a “faith mission,” Furgerson said. At the time, the organization lacked any official request from Albanian officials, so the volunteers’ Visa status was uncertain.
However, once TBM committed itself to the mission, Dallas-area media picked up on the story. Faymir Medu, a high-ranking official in one of Albania’s political parties, saw one of the television reports. Medu was in Dallas for a downtown demonstration in support of the NATO actions.
When he learned about the TBM relief effort, he called to pledge his support. He promised the group would have clear entry into the country and truck transportation for their supplies upon arrival.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the relief effort should send designated checks, made payable to the “Baptist Executive Board” to the Treasurer’s Office, Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington, Dallas 75246-1798.

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  • Ken Camp