The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded quickly after flooding in forced thousands of people to evacuate from their villages and farms to the city of Shkodër in northern Albania. Local missionaries and members worked together to lend a hand.
Elder Peter B. Snow, serving on a Mormon humanitarian mission with his wife, Sister Ruth Lynne Snow, witnessed miracles as they coordinated the Church's efforts. Some of the Albanian members volunteered to donate spare clothing.
One member, Erald Veliu, employed by the largest producer of flour and pasta in Albania, was able to find great prices on supplies including flour, pasta, rice, beans, sugar and cooking oil. Another member, Roan Gjini, knew of a truck that could be rented to pick up these staples at a cost much lower than other quotes.
To deliver the supplies, the Church partnered with the Albanian Red Cross, which had begun sending trucks north as soon as the roads were passable. The Church has worked together with the Albanian Red Cross in response to other disasters in Albania's recent past. Many of the villagers had a hard time leaving their homes, afraid they would lose their farm animals, a main source of their income; crops and greenhouses were destroyed by six feet of water. The donated food will give them hope and sustenance in the months ahead.
Thursday, January 21, missionaries serving in the Albania Tirana Mission unloaded sacks and containers in the Red Cross warehouse. "It is hard to see this kind of disaster," said President John M. Neil of the Albania Tirana Mission, "but I am glad our missionaries had the opportunity to help. We have been blessed with missionaries who are always happy to serve."
President Neil and his wife, Sister Elizabeth Neil, were present as these supplies were officially given to Artur Katuçi, head of the Development Department of the Albanian Red Cross. Mr. Katuçi was grateful for the Church's donation and said that the food would help feed the displaced people for the next three months.
The four elders who are serving in Shkodër will be working with the Red Cross to help unload the trucks as they arrive. Mr. Katuçi noted that he and Fredi Gaba, the member serving as interpreter, had attended high school together.
In a follow-up meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3, the Albanian Red Cross presented President Neil with a certificate formally recognizing the Church's contribution. The President of the Albanian Red Cross, Dr. Shyqyri Subashi, was nostalgic when he welcomed Dr. Agim Grimci of the Albania District Presidency and his wife, Dr. Lindita Grimci, the Church's national director of public affairs, sharing that he had taught both of them in medical school.
Several dignitaries from the Albanian government's religious committee were also in attendance. Dr. Subashi shared how grateful he was that through this association he came to appreciate the deep humanity, initiative, contribution and trust demonstrated by the Church in this cooperative effort to benefit the poor and the needy.