Church Donations Aid Romanian Flood Refugees
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“Church Donations Aid Romanian Flood Refugees,” Liahona, Sept. 2006, N12–N13

Church Donations Aid Romanian Flood Refugees

Deep snowpack in European mountains and heavy spring rains earlier this year filled the Danube River to its highest level in 65 years, causing severe flooding along the southern border of Romania and down into the Danube Delta near the Black Sea. Runoff was strong and powerful, breaking dikes built several years ago to prevent such flooding.

Fertile farmland was flooded and hundreds of small farms and houses were crumbled in its wake, leaving thousands homeless. Many of the older houses were built with a chalk-like material that crumbles when wet.

Refugee camps were established near many villages. Those living near the Danube fled their homes with only the clothes they were wearing.

With funding approved by the Europe Central Area presidency, Church humanitarian resources, missionaries, and members in Romania provided immediate relief to flood victims. Members from 4 of the 22 branches in Romania, along with 18 full-time missionaries, lined up in a meetinghouse in Bucharest to assemble more than 3,000 hygiene kits and food packets. These packets, with blankets, bread, and bottled water, were delivered to the Spantov, Chiselet, and Manasterea villages along the Danube River.

This was believed to be the largest emergency relief project undertaken by the Church in Romania, said humanitarian country directors Steven and Kristine Johnston.

“I feel so good. I feel satisfied,” said one member from Bucharest as three large delivery trucks were in the final stages of loading. Vasile Andreea and her 15-year-old brother, Vasile Marius-Florin, and a newly baptized member, Cosma Adrian, spent much of the day helping create the kits and loading the trucks. They enjoyed it so much that they found their own transportation to the afflicted villages, located more than 100 kilometers to the southeast of Bucharest, where they helped with distribution.

Many of the more than 3,000 flood victims expressed gratitude for the Church’s humanitarian donation. One woman told missionaries, “Another church brought us little crosses, but the Mormons brought us food.”

Another flood victim told President John Ashby of the Romania Bucharest Mission, “I didn’t know what I was going to eat tonight. All I have are the clothes on my back.”

During a visit to the afflicted area prior to the distribution of the packets, Elder and Sister Johnston met a little boy named Cosmin. His house had been destroyed and he was living under a tarp.

When the Johnstons returned a while later with food, he and his family were nowhere to be found.

“We desperately wanted to find them,” said Elder Johnston. “We promised them we would return with help. We left the distribution to others and began scouring the faces in the crowd of refugees, hoping to find him and his father and mother.

“Near the end of the day, after most materials were distributed, we found them standing off a distance from everyone else, waiting patiently. They were a contrast to the majority who pushed and shoved their way to the front of the line. We were touched by their humility and gratitude. Little Cosmin soon brought us flowers and said, ‘Thank you.’”

“I think [members having the opportunity to serve] was the most gratifying aspect of this project. We hope all the members here know that their Church is truly concerned with the less fortunate and follows the Lord’s admonition to care for the poor and needy,” Elder Johnston said. “The comfort provided by Church members and missionaries made a big difference to many people, both to the recipients and to those providing the service.”

Sisters Lindsay Shepard and Alyson Bowers comfort two Romanian women who were left homeless after the Danube River overflowed its banks. (Photograph by Kristine Johnston, courtesy of Church News.)