Sipovo – “I Wonder, How Does She Survive the Winter?”

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Summer Service Corps

“I Wonder, How Does She
Survive the Winter?”

An international service corps team is serving in Sipovo this summer, a first in the Army world. The team, composed of 7 youth from the U.S. Central Territory, three from the Sweden Territory and 10 local Bosnian youth, works together on projects including teaching English to school children, rebuilding damaged homes, assisting with a kindergarten and a youth drop-in center, and helping elderly widows and spinsters.

Colorado Salvationist Tim Kercher, a volunteer in Sipovo since December, directs the team. “It’s been a wonderful way for the kids to learn about each other,” Kercher said. “Each of the Salvationists is paired up with a local kid. They eat lunch together and have dinner in their partner’s home. ”

The impact of the service has been deeply felt. “It feels so right to be here to help, to give to others,” says Jenny Alm, Stockholm, Sweden. “At the same time I receive so very much in return.”

Anna Lindhe, also from Stockholm, recalls one 75-year-old woman to whom she gave a food packet. “Her house been burned down and she lived in a small wooden hut with only a bed and wood stove which The Salvation Army gave her. I wonder, how does she survive the winter?…the people have so many hardships but are still positive.”

Allen Fones, formerly of the Western Territory, states, “I was shocked at first to see the destruction. I’ve seen elderly women living in something that homeless people in the U.S. would pass up. But, their attitude and perseverance has taught me so much. And it’s been neat pairing up with local youth… they’ve told us about their lives. My partner has asked me about God and the Bible.”

In addition to directing the team, Kercher has also developed and taught English classes for adults and children, and initiated the community center. “Teaching English seemed to be a good way to build trust in the community,” he explains.

He teaches a weekly English conversation class for youth, with up to 100 children. “The business community asked the Army to have a class for adults. Now, I teach two classes a week with up to 30 in a class.” Ages range from 25 to 35, and more than 100 have applied for the class.

He has also learned to read and write the language. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s been a good experience and strengthened my faith. I appreciate the people here. They ‘do things right.’ They focus on people, invite them in, enjoy coffee and meals together, take time for each other–there’s more emphasis on relationships than on schedules.”

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