by Lesley de Blieck
The war in Ukraine continues to dominate our news. Helpless, we look on, as increasingly desperate attacks and counter manoeuvres damage an already suffering country. The headlines in the media tell of towns and cities shelled, bridges blown up or the nuclear power plant on the verge of collapse.
In the midst of these wider catastrophes and crises, local believers are working behind the scenes to support Ukrainians affected by conflict or displaced from their homes. Since the war started on 24 February 2022, individuals, churches, trusts and groups from overseas have generously given much to help Ukraine. In addition, Echoes International provided a substantial gift to the joint fund. To date £463,000 has been raised for Ukraine. A group of organisations, Echoes International. the Philadelphia Trust, Medical Missionary News (MMN), GLO and Bible Educational Services (BES), worked together every week at the height of the crisis to oversee that the gifts were allocated effectively. All of the gifts sent were given to indigenous groups in Ukraine itself and in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova and Czechia.
Here we’ll share from a few of the projects and people who have been helped through this fund.
Some of the Ukraine fund helped Hungarian believers finance trips directly into Ukraine, delivering basic food items, medical supplies, fuel and Christian literature, as well as giving opportunities to teach children’s Bible classes.
Two Ukrainian Hungarian brothers made a trip all the way to Bucha, delivering one tonne of basic food supplies to another two brothers working for a Christian rehabilitation centre. On their return to Hungary, one of them, Attila, gave an eyewitness account of the brutality and wanton destruction that had taken place.
He recalled how the two Christian brothers working in the former rehabilitation centre described their harrowing experience during the Russian occupation of the town. They were robbed, taken captive with sacks pulled over their heads, chained to chairs, beaten with rifle butts and interrogated. They said that, through all this, they remembered the example of Paul and Silas in prison and prayed aloud and sang praises to God. This further infuriated their captors who beat them more savagely. Still, one of the captured brothers said that he had never slept more peacefully than he did at night in those chairs. The Lord filled him with peace. They were finally escorted to a place of execution. When a man asked them if they had any last words, one of them said, ‘Here I am, Lord Jesus.’ To which the soldier replied, ‘Well, your God has saved you’ and then he proceeded to set them free!
Attila said that when others ask him whether the trip was useful and why he went, he says these questions were incomprehensible to him. As a believer in Christ, he had no other alternative.
Reaching out from Romania
Romanian assemblies were given some of the Ukraine fund. Haures, along with other Romanian brothers, took food across the border to Ukraine. At one point, every week they had humanitarian transport going to Ukraine from different parts of the country. The cost for one transportation trip was between €5,000 and €10,000, depending on the size of the convoy.
One Romanian brother shared that, ‘Many prayed for us and we felt there was no problem along the way. We have met many brothers who have been redeemed by the Lord. Our family was worried about us. We knew the road was going to be dangerous, and we set off a little worried. But the Lord was faithful, preserving us, watching over us. We were able to bless seven churches along the way.’
The fund has also been used to help those from dangerous areas in Ukraine evacuate to safer places within the country. One ministry hosted more than 100 people evacuated from different areas. They were provided with a free place to live and food. Most of the people who came to this camp were unbelievers, and it was an opportunity for mission workers to share the gospel with them.
Another team helped a local church assist with renovations, food supplies and medical support to mostly older people in a village, which had suffered from Russian shelling in March 2022. The gospel was preached among the rebuilding works that continued throughout the whole summer and autumn. Before the war, people in the village were often hostile to Christian preachers but now everything has radically changed. People are open to hear the gospel as they see how much care and help is provided by the believers. During regular outdoor meetings, nearly the whole village came to listen to the Word of God spoken by the church leaders.
Before the war, people in the village were often hostile to Christian preachers but now everything has radically changed.
Activities for Children
A group of believers organised various activities for displaced children in the Kyiv region, which included not only games but some educational elements as well, using Christian programmes. The goal was to share the gospel with the children, to show love, care for them and to invite them to Sunday school in the local church. While the work with children took place, part of the team was involved in reaching out to their parents and grandparents. Funds were used to purchase some sport items, various materials and a projector with a screen. There were many new families in the region, who had fled from dangerous territories, who were happy to have something organised for their children and therefore gladly participated in such meetings. The door for the gospel is wide open, so it was good to use this time for God’s purposes.
Life Saving Centres
Since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine, instructors from Life Saving Centres conducted training in first aid for firefighters, volunteers, medical workers, police, civilians and military personnel all over Rivne region and in other regions. So far, more than four thousand people in Ukraine have been trained in emergency first aid in war zones. Covering long distances to reach the training points was extremely hard, transporting instructors and large amounts of equipment. Funds were used to purchase a minibus which has already been used for training with firefighters and for training in churches. Andriy, from the Life Saving Centres, suggests, ‘From every instructor of NGO Life Saving Centre and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Ukraine fund for your help. I’m sure that because of your kindness more lives can be saved.’
Helping Disabled Refugees
One ministry converted its Agape disability rehabilitation centre into an evacuation centre for refugees who are disabled. They were able to evacuate 600 people with disabilities and their family members to Europe, and over 1,000 refugees and their families have been able to stay at Agape They were able to provide them with a safe place to stay and meals, as well as meeting their other needs.
One refugee, Polina, had broken her neck 11 years ago, and lived with her mother, Yevgennii. When the war started, her building was hit many times but Polina couldn’t walk down to the basement to shelter at first. Then Yevgennii met a believer, Sveta, in the centre of the city, who asked her, ‘Why aren’t you going anywhere?’ Sveta then put them in touch with the ministry, which arranged transport for them so that Polina could be transported lying down. Yevgennii said, ‘At first I couldn’t believe it. How could it be that the state could not help us but ordinary people could help?’
The journey took 15 hours before they were able to rest at the Agape centre. Polina said, ‘For a long time we did not believe that we could be taken to a peaceful place where we would not hear nearby whistling, shooting, burning and bursting.’
We give thanks for the ways in which the Ukraine fund has been able to reach out to people displaced, struggling and afraid, and that there seems to be a real openness to the gospel during this time of trial. But the conflict in Ukraine still continues. Pray that people might find, in the midst of destruction and death, true peace that is not temporary, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
- for the unity of all believers in helping the refugees
- for thankfulness for a change in perspective, that material things are only temporary
- for wisdom in helping others
- for more people to be involved in transportation, accommodation and literature distribution.