(ABC4) – The Greek Catholic Church and Latter-day Saint Charities are coming together to help feed hungry refugees displaced in Syria.
According to the Church’s website, a new mobile bakery has arisen that can help supply freshly baked bread; feeding tens of thousands of people every day.
“Our good friend Mother Agnes, who’s the Abbot of a Syrian monastery, has worked for years to bring relief to the Syrian people embroiled in civil war. She’s been fearless about entering areas of armed conflict to minister to displaced people. But those people needed food—especially bread—and transporting fresh bread across battle zones can be extremely dangerous. What Mother Agnes needed was a way to bake and distribute bread in areas isolated by fighting,” share Mike and Liz Freckleton, Latter-day Saint Charities representatives.
Church leaders say, when Mother Agnes described the need to the Freckletons, they began to think and pray about the challenges. “We just felt the Lord would open up a way,” Mike shares.
“Mike Freckleton is a retired radiologist and Liz a former occupational therapist. They may have lacked specific skills to create the needed machinery, but they are organizers, and they met often with Mother Agnes, who brought Abdo al Haddad into the conversation. He was from a family of bakers that goes back centuries, and he also felt the same concern for his Syrian people and the suffering of those without sufficient food,” the website writes.
According to Church leaders, when it came to creating a mobile bakery, numerous challenges were presented and had to be worked out.
“Such a bakery had never been built, and limited space required a novel design. An additional requirement was that the bakery be automated so fully that one operator could run it,” they share.
“We met many times,” Liz Freckleton adds, “and time and again, things fell into place. Doors opened in ways that we never could have expected.”
Then four short months later, the concepts manifested into reality; scribbles on a notepad turned into a tightly confined automatic bakery housed in a standard shipping container.
“The design included a mixer that combined the ingredients as well as a conveyor belt system that sliced the dough, shaped it, allowed it to rise, baked it and finally dropped it into the hands of waiting operators,” officials describe.
According to a Church press release, parts of the mobile bakery were machined in Egypt and shipped to Lebanon for assembly. After, the bakery was then ready to be transported into Syria, but government regulations and customs laws had to be satisfied and the intersection of multiple national and international agencies and ministries had to be coordinated.
“Our prayers continued to be answered,” the Freckletons explain. “All the complications were worked out faster than we thought possible.”
Officials say, the Syrian government agreed to protect the equipment and pay for the ingredients used to resupply the bakery. But then the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic added new safety requirements.
But despite it all, the mobile bakery is now serving camps of internally displaced people in Northeastern Syria.
Church officials say the mobile bakery has the capacity to produce up to 120,000 pieces of Arabic bread in a 24-hour period.
“The bakery is a turn-key system that can be set up in an area of need within a few hours, with fresh bread coming off the conveyor belt just two hours later,” church leaders inform. “Two more of the mobile bakeries have now been built and will soon be in operation in Lebanon, another country currently in desperate need of humanitarian aid. These bakeries are able to produce many varieties of locally preferred bread, from flatbread to leavened loaves.”
Officials say, Mother Agnes is joyous about the success of the program and hopes to see it continue.
“We thank with all our hearts The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for all their support in conceiving and in executing the mobile automatic bakery,” she shares. “We hope that we will have more than one so that we can cover all the needs of all the people starving in Syria and maybe elsewhere.”
The Freckletons say it was an honor to partner with Mother Agnes and others who were involved.
“It was a marvelous experience to work with such devoted people,” Mike shares. “We felt the power of the Lord in everything we did.”