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Baptists deliver winter coats to Serbian kidscomment (0)

January 4, 2001

The Texas Baptist Men missions organization (TBM) has shipped 10,000 coats to the former Yugoslavia, with the goal of making the New Year happier and the winter warmer for many Serbian children.

But the missions group received an early Christmas present of its own when leaders found a project originally expected to cost $50,000 could be done for $13,000 and meet even more needs than originally planned.

At the Oct. 31 Texas Baptist Men Convention in Corpus Christi, the missions organization’s executive board voted to participate in the “Koats for Kids” project. The men were told that the Bread of Life ministry would distribute coats in early January to children and youth throughout Serbia. Southern Baptist missionaries work closely with Bread of Life in humanitarian efforts. TBM leaders expected to be able to buy each coat for less that $5 by purchasing in large quantities. But when Jim Furgerson, TBM executive director-treasurer, began checking with suppliers in Europe, the best price he could find initially was about $7.

However, a contact in Amsterdam asked if reconditioned coats would be acceptable. After an assurance that the coats were “like new” after being reconditioned, Furgerson asked how much they would cost.

“Seventy-five one dollars, American,” his source replied, in stilted English.

Initially, Furgerson thought he meant each coat was $75 dollars. But the supplier quickly explained that he meant the cost per coat was 75 cents. Furgerson immediately placed an order for 10,000 coats, which already have been shipped to Belgrade (Yugoslavia).

With about $13,000 already contributed toward the project, TBM was able to purchase not only the coats, but also a large container filled with heavy, long underwear for the Serbs.

Other opportunities to share God’s love through ministry are increasing as Yugoslavia’s government moves back into the world community. In 1990 the International Mission Board (IMB) began assisting the Bread of Life ministry in Belgrade and the Love Your Neighbor work in the city of Nis.

“In the last two years, the (IMB) has provided $400,000 to both ministries,” said Jim Brown, a human needs consultant for IMB.

“The ministries provide food and stoves for refugee families and they hope to begin job skill training and agriculture projects for the families. Many of them have been forced from their homes three or four times,” said Brown.

“Some went from a home with five or 10 acres to a one-room building that used to house pigs and cows,” he said.

But despite the circumstances, Brown said Christian refugees do not express bitterness or anger. On a recent trip to Serbia, he often heard refugees say, “God has turned Serbia upside down to get the people’s focus back upon God and on who He really is and how He loves us.”

The human needs ministries have increased Baptists’ reputations in the cities of Belgrade and Nis and officials there have offered the use of city property so Baptist work with the Kosovar refugees can expand further. “People are coming to realize who Baptists are, that we care and we want to share the love of Jesus with folks. Enough people have been reached that dozens of churches could be started among new Christians, he said. (Compiled from wire reports)

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