The rebellion in Libya has developed into a huge refugee crisis on its borders – and members of Gold Hill Baptist Church in Buckinghamshire, England, are among many who have flown in to do what they can.
Joined by a British doctor in Tunis, the 10-member team – eight of them from Gold Hill – responded to a call from WEC International, a mission agency, whose United Kingdom base is nearby.
They left on March 5 with the aim of working for five days at the Ras Adjir border crossing in a United Nations refugee camp, helping to cook for tens of thousands of refugees who have poured over the border to escape the fighting.
They faced 10-hour days in primitive conditions with poor hygiene, though the camp itself – run by the Tunisian army – is thought to be a safe environment.
The group’s leader is Rev. Martyn Groves, one of Gold Hill’s ministers, who serves as a volunteer chaplain for Thames Valley Police and a local community college.
“So often the best thing we can do in these situations is to send money through the aid agencies working on the ground,” he said. “This was a rare opportunity where the best thing we could do is to physically go and help.”
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The team had hoped to have a day to recover from their journey and prepare on March 6, but were driven straight to the camp to start work with the Association for Cooperation in Tunisia, one of the agencies providing relief.
An estimated 140,000 people fled Libya in only 10 days, though the flow is now easing. Egyptian aircraft have evacuated many, but the situation is still acute, with tens of thousands living in tents and awaiting developments.
A U.N. spokeswoman said that on the Tunisian border there was a particular problem for sub-Saharan Africans, who were not being allowed into the country.
In an email sent after the team’s arrival, Groves said that “walking into the camp is quite overwhelming.”
Although refugees face a three-hour wait for food, he said, “Everyone is very friendly and grateful.”
Gold Hill’s spokeswoman, Joyce Gledhill, said the team had been formed very quickly and represented a good range of skills.
“The situation was well organized in terms of supplies; they just needed manpower,” she said. “There is still an element of the unpredictable, but we have minimized the risk.”
A relief grant of approximately $2,650 has been sent by BMS World Mission through its Tunisian partners.
BMS workers, along with others from its partner agency, are also involved in the distribution of meals, working with the Tunisian army and the Red Crescent.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.