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OCMC News - Thanksgiving in Albania

by Anastasia Pamela Barksdale (Posted 12/2/2019)

OCMC News - Thanksgiving in Albania
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania stands, examining the wreckage from the earthquake. He was quick to jump into action and offer the Church's resources to support all those affected by the earthquake.

The Akathist of Thanksgiving "Glory to God for All Things" is a prayer that is especially popular on Thanksgiving, and it never seemed more appropriate to offer it as praise and worship to God than it did this year. Here in Albania, we are all trying to find some way to help the people whose lives have been shattered by the 6.4 earthquake that occurred on the 26th of November in Durres. We have been experiencing continuous aftershocks - some small, but others large enough to disrupt rescue efforts and continue to damage unstable buildings. People are continually rushing out of their buildings, and we are all off balance from the aftershocks. Many people are sleeping in their cars; some have left the area to take their families to villages without tall apartment buildings.

Immediately after the first big earthquake, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios went to Durres to see the situation and offered help by opening the Skete of the Myrrhbearing Women, the dormitories of the seminary at Shen Vlash Monastery, and the church in Durres as places of shelter. We are sheltering around 200 people in these locations and helping local villagers with food as best we can.

The interim camp that was set up by the city officials at the stadium filled quickly with 1,500 people. The Red Cross offered food, and many other NGOs, businesses, and churches rushed to offer assistance. It was chaotic. There were people, police, and children everywhere not knowing what to do next. Local hotels and residents opened their doors, and everywhere the hospitality for which the Albanian people are famous was evident.

The hardest part was trying to understand how to help. As people began to arrive at Shen Vlash, they needed food, clothing, and blankets. Our youth group rallied together and began collecting and bringing supplies. Diakonia Agapes, the Spirit of Love Foundation's philanthropic arm, received offers from various aid organizations to help: Dorcas International, IOCC, Alliances of Churches Together, and others. They are mobilizing efforts to bring needed supplies to Shen Vlash. OCMC has dedicated GivingTuesday (a global fundraising effort) on the 3rd of December to assist the earthquake victims. Please make a donation on this day if you are able; Facebook is matching up to $7 million for all fundraisers on GivingTuesday.

The Orthodox Church's efforts here are being coordinated by His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolas, and he has set up a social media site for funds to be donated in Albanian leke, Euros, or US dollars to aid the relief efforts. Right now the immediate needs are blankets, clothes, food, and water. The seminary needs dishes, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, toothpaste, shampoo, and towels. Students from the seminary have been offering help; local catechists are coming to counsel people.

Many people from the villages around Durres have houses that were damaged, forcing them to stay outside of their homes. They are asking for tents, but the stores haven't any. This problem exists here in Tirana also. More than 500 buildings have been damaged, and people cannot stay inside; they are living in their yards, if they have them. It will take months for inspectors to get around to assess all the damaged buildings. Many people continue to try to live in or around their homes because they have nowhere to go. If they leave, looters may come to steal their property. Many also have farm animals that still need to be cared for.

Today we are grateful for all the people who are offering to help; the rescue teams that have come from Greece, Italy, and Kosovo; and the organizations and people who are giving so generously to those in need. We are also grateful for all who are offering prayers for us here in Albania and who pray that the Lord will comfort the families who have lost loved ones, for those who have been injured and are receiving medical care, and for the doctors, nurses, and hospitals that are working tirelessly to help. We don't know how long we will need to sustain the efforts. The next phase after emergency assistance will be helping people to figure out what to do to restore their damaged homes or relocate to a new home and to find the necessities of life. May the Lord strengthen us for the days ahead.

Anastasia Pamela Barksdale, M.Div.
OCMC Missionary to Albania and
Executive Director of the Spirit of Love Foundation

This year, OCMC has dedicated GivingTuesday to supporting the earthquake relief in Albania. To support these relief efforts, please visit: donate.ocmc.org/GivingTuesday.

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