Pakistan in Recovery – A Firsthand View from A Salvation Army Officer

Yesterday we posted an updated bulletin regarding The Salvation Army’s ongoing relief work in Pakistan in response to the area’s devastating floods.

Today we are sharing the firsthand account of Major Dennis Gensler of The Salvation Army Pakistan Territory as he visited recovering communities. Some of his narrative expands on the events described in yesterday’s bulletin, and much of the narrative provides additional detail exclusive to Major Gensler’s own experience. We hope it will provide you with a more personal view of The Salvation Army’s relief efforts and the plight of flood survivors.

“We left Territorial Headquarters Saturday 14 August at 4:30 am for the four hour trip to Islamabad to pick up other members of the Disaster team before going the remaining two hours to Charsadda.  We were in two vehicles as the plan was to leave the four-wheel drive truck with the Islamabad team for their future visits to the flood areas.

Flood survivors receive supplies and prayer and The Salvation Army's distribution in Charsadda.

We were grateful for the good organization that Captain Asif in Peshawar had arranged.  Each family that was to be helped had a paper with their name and identification number on it and they were numbered from 1 to 100.  After showing their identification card and giving their thumb print they were given a canvas bag with cooking utensils, pots, buckets, plates, cups, and kettles.  They also received a foam mattress, a quilt and a large pillow.  Everyone was very grateful for these very useful items.  We did this in three places for a total of 300 families being assisted and it all ran very smoothly.  We were able to have prayer at each location.  We were joined by a few of the Bishops of other denominations and even a Muslim leader came and shared a few words at one of them.  We also had the MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) for the Peshawar area Prince Javed participate in one of the distributions.  We are expecting to help at least 3,000 families in this area alone.

After a long day of passing out relief goods we went into Peshawar to spend the night at a guest house.   Peshawar was not at all what I expected.  It’s really a very large and modern place.

Major Gensler took this photo of a group of boys in Peshawar, one of whom is carrying a pistol, but it's unknown if it was real or a toy. The Major said his "heart was aching" for them.

On Sunday morning we did some additional assessments at some of the areas affected by the flood waters.  We visited some families whose small mud homes were missing walls and parts of the roof.  One home had a large hole in a small bedroom where a woman was in mud up to her neck and had to be pulled out by a few men.  They were already working on rebuilding some of the mud walls and in some cases they will use some bricks.  It’s not that much stronger, since they don’t use cement with the bricks – only mud.  One little boy in this area was holding a 9 mm pistol which he seemed to keep at his side, somewhat hidden.  I wasn’t sure if it was real or a toy, but being an American in Peshawar I felt my heart race a bit.  I called him and some other boys near to me for a picture.  It’s hard to imagine the affect that all of this is going to have on the children.  My heart was aching for each of them.

Flood waters left virtually nothing standing in Azhakel.

The really disturbing place that we visited was a village called Azhakhel, which as it turns out was an Afghan Refugee Camp.  As I looked at the map it appears this place is right at the bend in the river.  Another village just to the west is called Pabbi and they were hit just as hard.  As far as we could see in either direction was total destruction.   Villagers told us that there were around 15,000 families in these places, but we couldn’t verify that.

Major Gensler prays with the community members of Azakhel.

The work of recovery and rebuilding here in Pakistan will take years.  They were already so far behind, but this will just send them back even further.  I wish I could rely on the generous gifts from around the world to give what is necessary, but considering how Pakistan has become alienated from so many I don’t see that happening.  I wish more people could see the Pakistan that I have come to see in the last six months.  I’m certain they would give more.”

If you would like to support The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Pakistan, you can donate by clicking here.