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Exreme Poverty

While in the Balkans we met a community of almost five hundred Kosovo refugee families that live in a shantytown and are desperately needy. They have no papers, they cannot get out of the country, they cannot get help, they do not exist as far as the government is concerned. When they fled for their lives in 1999 their papers and houses were burned, as were their belongings. Now they live under an extremely busy bridge right next to the Danube River in Belgrade.

washing clothes
Washing clothes near sewage dump

Most of them come from a Muslim background. The smallest size of their families was four children and the largest families had up to eleven children. Most of them sleep on wet dirt floors; it stinks all around; and there are no proper streets, just walkways. It is really just like a big garbage dump; you have to watch where you walk because there are human feces all around. They do not have clean water or electricity. When they go to draw water, they have to go to two running pipes and that is where they wash their clothes in the centre of town. Many of them carry their clothes in washbasins a long way to get there. The same water that they are washing their clothes in is where trucks come and dump garbage and sewage.

sewage truck
Sewage truck

The children play in this area as well, amongst the garbage and sewage. Children are coughing; many have tuberculosis and are sick from playing and washing in the bacteria-infested water. There are no medications and the people are very sick and malnourished. They try to feed themselves by collecting food from the garbage bins, sorting through cardboard, glass, metal pieces, etc. If they find bread in the garbage bin or some other food, then they can eat; if they don't find anything, they don't eat. Both parents and children go to look for food every day. They are constantly sick because of malnutrition. They also do not have sufficient clothing, and because they have no identification papers, they cannot get jobs. It was heartbreaking for Ljiljana and me to visit them and see the cardboard type of houses in which they live.

metal shelter
Families construct their homes using any supplies found

When we first came to them they were suspicious and opposed us because they did not know who we were. As Slobodan talked to the leaders of the shantytown there was much opposition but then God began to open doors. We were overwhelmed to see God at work as Slobodan talked to people. God the Holy Spirit gave the right words and doors and hearts were opened as hope was sown into their hearts. They told us that many people had come before making promises they never kept. We told them this was our first time there and that we were not promising anything, but we were providing what we could now. Those who initially strongly opposed us invited us to their homes. You could see God at work.

Slobodan prepares to distribute the bread
The crowd eagerly awaits their turn

The main thing we heard over and over again was that we need food, we need bread. This is how we decided to come and bless them with 25 lbs. bags of flour and with loaves of bread. Distributing one bag of flour per family and between two to nine loaves of bread depending on the size of the family. In spite of all this human desperation, they are really needy of both essentials for living and hope in Christ. As we shared loaves of bread with these families there was great joy in their hearts and on their faces and they were so receptive to the message of Jesus Christ. We gave each a New Testament and connected them with the local church of believers to do follow up work.

One of the young recipients
Ljiljana hands out free bread to the excited and needy crowd