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Croatian Baptist Aid Volunteers United by Purpose

Since the beginning of the migrant-refugee crisis, 568,439 persons entered the Republic of Croatia.

The camp in Slavonski Brod (a city in eastern Croatia, on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina) was covered in the first snow during the first week of January.

In search of a safer life, in search of freedom and dignity, many were forced to leave their homes, leave years of hard work, leave everything they owned and start their life-changing journey – a journey of hope toward a better life.

That “journey of hope,” which began in Syria and went through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria to finally come to Germany, was not easy.

As a matter of fact, that was a “journey through hell” and Croatia found itself at the center of, and therefore became witness to, the biggest migrant crisis in the history since World War II.

Amid that hell, a truly touching story happened in Slavonski Brod that Croatian Baptist Aid (CBA) was able to witness.

One of the refugees that recently passed through Croatia while his family stayed in Turkey waiting for the dealers of boats (who charge 1,000 Euros per person) to take them to Greece received a message through WhatsApp that a part of his family along with 80 other people were in the boats in the Aegean Sea.

They were in big trouble due to storms and rough sea. He managed to give this information to the Croatian police, who immediately responded and notified the officials in Greece, who then successfully did their job and saved those people.

There are a lot of stories that witness that Croatia is in the center of the biggest migrant crisis, but unfortunately not all of them finish with a happy ending.

Due to the cold, difficult weather conditions, fatigue and hunger of the refugees, Croatia is, along with Greece, the second European Union country that was faced with the death of some of the refugees.

The recent tragedy of a dying baby in the camp in Slavonski Brod made all of CBA’s volunteers think about life and death and their meaning. The grief in the eyes of the mother and her husband is indescribable. There are no words.

Even though the temperatures are below-zero Celsius, the cold and fatigue of a journey that seems to have no end made a lot of the refugees disappointed and incredibly sad. A lot of them came lost and afraid.

On the one hand, there is a strong will to live. On the other hand, fear and trembling became a normal part for many people. That was the Christmas and New Year’s atmosphere for many refugees in the camp in Croatia.

A lot of volunteers working in the refugee camp want to make life better for the refugees they meet. Over half a million people so far have passed through the camp in Croatia.

Since the first day of the refugee crisis, there have been many volunteers from different Protestant churches working inside the camp.

They differ on some theological issues and opinions but are united with the purpose of working together and helping the refugees.

There were 170 volunteers from 22 different countries (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, India, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania and so on) that came to work in the refugee camp in Croatia through the Protestant Evangelical Alliance.

The volunteers are working on different projects that are changing due to the changing needs of refugees.

During the summer, they distributed water, food and clothes. Now, due to extreme cold and snow that covered the camp, volunteers are working on distributing “winter packets” – winter caps that contain gloves, a scarf and socks.

The cost of one of these winter packets is around 12 Euros. Every day about 700 packets are distributed. With the distribution of winter packets, there is a project to distribute high energy food – muesli bars, peanuts, walnuts, energy bars, chocolate and bananas.

With food and winter packets, volunteers are also distributing winter footwear. Around 80 pairs of different-sized boots are distributed daily to people that pass through the camp. We hope that we will be able to raise the number of shoes we distribute to 150 per day.

Even though thousands of people daily pass through the camp, our abilities are limited, and we cannot cover all needs. We believe that our God is a God who provides. We didn’t find ourselves in this crisis by accident.

It is our wish to help these people on their journey from hell to heaven. Our abilities are limited. We need your help because together we are stronger. We might be divided by borders or different opinions, but our purpose and our God unites us.

Elvis Džafić is coordinator of volunteers for Croatian Baptist Aid. A longer version of this article first appeared on the European Baptist Federation news page and is used with permission.

Editor’s note: A photo news story covering Croatian Baptist Aid’s refugee relief initiatives is available here.