Hatred New In Aid Director's Experience


Randy Roberson is a man with a Christian message to deliver and a desire to help people around the world, but he wasn't prepared for what he saw on a recent trip to Albania.

Roberson has been to places where people were homeless because of earthquakes, hungry because of cultural disadvantages, spiritually wanting and morally corrupt.

But in a refugee camp near Tirane, Albania, and in the homes of the people there who had taken in fleeing Kosovars, Roberson saw the ravages of hate.

"This was such a different experience," he said. "There was such human hatred."

As executive director of World/Aid, a non-profit missionary outreach program, Roberson made the trip to Albania to seek out other agencies already there in order to provide aid to the refugees from Kosovo.

He left Payson and the United States on June 1 and returned June 9, after spending four heartbreaking days in refugee camps and in the homes Kosovars had fled to in Albania.

Roberson made the trip alone to Rome and then teamed up with members of the Slavic Gospel Association, an organization that has been working in eastern Europe for 60 years.

"They provide food, education and Christian evangelical information," Roberson said.

Some 25 members of World/Aid, which was founded by Payson resident Larry Ward and is based here, have been following the crisis in Kosovo for the past four or five months, Roberson said.

"Many of the relief agencies were already in place," he said. "This gave us the opportunity to see what areas of need weren't being met."

Roberson said his job was to look at the needs and to pass that information along to others in World/Aid.

The program the organization will implement involves sending money for packages of staple food items along with Bibles for the refugees. Roberson said $35 worth of food will sustain a family of four for up to two months.

"World/Aid will be depending on these other organizations to get the food where it's needed," he said.

Roberson saw the need first-hand at the camps across the border from Kosovo.

He and three people from the Slavic Gospel Association went from Rome to Bari, Italy, where they caught a ferry that took them on a 12-hour cruise across the Adriatic to Durres, Albania.

From Durres the group went by car to a camp just five miles from the Kosovo border, where a steady stream of refugees have fled from Serbian atrocities.

Roberson spent two days at the camp that houses some 10,000 people. He helped the new refugees get settled and slept in the tents with them.

"The real story in Albania were the reports of what the refugees had gone through," Roberson said. "One night, I worked till 2 a.m. when the Italian military brought in 360 people, many of whom were POWs released by the Serbs. What astounded me were the stories they told."

Through an interpreter, Roberson talked to about 100 refugees. He said what he learned of their experiences was far worse than anything he has seen on television.

Two of the stories continue to haunt him.

One was that of a 4-year-old girl, alone at the camp, whose entire family had been killed. Roberson said he cannot forget the look on her face or the story of three people who watched their entire large family shot down by snipers.

They told him how they escaped by rubbing the blood of their relatives on themselves and pretending to be dead. They were loaded on the back of a truck with the bodies and escaped as the truck moved along the highway.

With Serbian troops now pulling out of Kosovo, there may be an end to the atrocities, but not to the challenges.

The effort to re-unite people is just getting under way, and the homes they left behind will have to be rebuilt.

"Many of their communities have had their infrastructures knocked out," Roberson said. "They have no electricity or water. Homes and businesses have been destroyed so it's going to be quite some time before these people are able to get back on their feet again. The challenge now is to help meet the needs as they go back to Kosovo."

Roberson said fewer than half the people coming out of Kosovo are being put up in the camps throughout Albania. The rest are being housed in the homes of Albanian citizens.

"In the homes, which were very modest, most under 1,000 square feet, there were 20 people or more," he said. "They've just opened their homes up out of compassion."

It's a compassion that Roberson shares.
When Roberson does relief work, he said he often thinks of an old prayer: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

"That prayer was answered in Albania in an amazing way for me," he said.

"The toughest part is coming back and knowing that it's still going on over there."

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