by Roger Brind with contributions from Viktor Yakymenko & Tymoteusz Niesłańczy
After our last article on the response to the war in Ukraine, here is an update from some of the projects supported by the joint relief fund for Ukraine, organised by a group of organisations, Echoes International, the Philadelphia Trust, Medical Missionary News (MMN), GLO and Bible Educational Services (BES). As of April 2023, the joint fund for Ukraine has sent £537k.
At the time of writing, the war has continued on for over one year. More than 13 million people have been displaced from their homes and often left without food, water or electricity. This conflict has had a global impact, both economically, disrupting trade, and politically, increasing tensions between world powers. Yet in these times of trouble, Ukrainian believers have taken comfort in Psalm 31: ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed me the wonders of His love when I was in a city under siege’ (Ps. 31:21). As the suffering continues, pray for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters.
The Polish assemblies are heavily involved with the transport of aid all over Ukraine. Some are very close to the frontline of the conflict. I was amazed at the selfless effort that they put in and the very detailed accounts of the money allocated. While Marek Nalewajka and I were there, two loads that had come from Palowice in Poland were being prepared to go further on. The needs are as great now as they were at the beginning of the conflict.
The aid that we carried was designated for Volyn, the northwestern region of Ukraine. We unloaded 200 food packages at the church centre and then delivered the remaining 200 food packages to another ministry in Ukraine, in Zoazerne, near the Polish border. It was good for us to see how these food packages are being used and to see the careful way that the aid provided is stored, transported and distributed. We also carried an 8-kilowatt generator with us and have arranged for it to be sent on for use in Kherson, a southern region of Ukraine where mission partners are involved in a regular visitation and support ministry. They regularly travel 600km to bring aid and have plans to establish a more permanent relationship with a village there. They plan to use the generator to provide an electricity source in the village to pump water and charge phones as there is little prospect of electricity being restored.
‘We have been delivering different types of goods to Ukraine since the very beginning. We mainly travel to Lviv, which is about 500km from us. From there believers take it further into the country. So far with the help of Echoes International, The Philadelphia Trust and other ministries, we have sent a total of 300 tonnes of supplies. Our motto is “Help churches help,” which basically means we want to help believers in Ukraine help others, be that their own congregation or those in need and testify to unbelievers. Ukrainian believers organise humanitarian aid, share the gospel, give people packages and Christian tracts or pray with them. We heard of churches growing through this ministry and new churches being established as well.’ – Tymoteusz Niesłańczyk (Poland)
One village in Ukraine, Pidhayne, northeast of Kyiv, suffered heavily at the start of the war from bombing and shelling. As it was not located on the major routes, it had not been cleared of mines or other dangerous explosives. The majority of buildings were destroyed and people didn’t have many places to live. Churches in a nearby town decided to start helping the community return to normal life by providing food, hygiene products and materials for rebuilding. It was a long-term care project, which aimed to both show the love of Christ in practice and through preaching.
The work started in the spring of 2022 and continues on. It is clear now that God has used this work for His purposes – people from the village come not only to get some food and other aid but also just to listen to the Word of God, at the time of day when no humanitarian aid is provided. Brothers and sisters share their personal testimonies with people. The work in this village was noticed by a Ukrainian TV channel, which broadcast news about it across Ukraine and clearly emphasised that this was a church project.
God has used this work for His purposes – people from the village come not only to get some food and other aid but also just to listen to the Word of God
As the cold weather arrived, the work was hastened in order to complete as many repairs as possible. People kept coming to the Saturday meetings where the Word of God was preached. Additionally, a Bible study group was organised there. As the winter approached, it became more and more difficult to meet outside for the weekly church meetings. Moreover, it got dark at around 5pm while the meetings went on. An old house was purchased and was reconstructed into a church building, so that they would have a place to meet during the winter and in the future. People in the village want to keep attending such meetings where they hear the Word of God. Pray for this work to continue and for people to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christian Medical Association (CMA) has a warehouse in Ukraine. It was good to appreciate the thought, prayer and preparation that goes into everything as they seek to provide hospitals and individual Christian medics with resources. They have received a considerable amount of aid from various countries, which needs sorting and sending out. Recipients are expected to provide precise lists of their requirements so that nothing is wasted.
In addition, CMA are also involved with a training ministry, particularly assisting those who are involved in emergency medicine. They organise for medics from the West to come into Ukraine and to use their skills in a variety of ways. American plastic surgeons have travelled to Ukraine and they were involved in assessing serious problems, mainly of children.
‘Ivan and Valentyna Salamakha used to live in Kherson where they had their podiatry business. When the Russians occupied the city, the family had to leave. Their house and their clinic were completely destroyed, so they had to start a new life in a new place. They were evacuated in March 2022 by volunteers from Almaz and that is how they came to the church. Later they accepted Christ and then in October 2022 were baptised. They are both involved in some church services, helping other internally displaced people. Yet it’s difficult for them to find a job and they don’t have a regular income. Having some health issues, they were grateful for the provided support.’ – Viktor Yakymenko (Ukraine)
People who are evacuated from dangerous zones need a place to live and a Christian ministry has been providing its campsite in Rivne to accommodate around 100 people. One woman, Svitlana, had to flee her town after the railway station was hit by a missile. She said, ‘Thank you very much. My family and I are very grateful. We are living in excellent conditions. We enjoy looking at nature, it is very beautiful.’
The ministry works with other evangelical churches in Ukraine, helping internally displaced people (IDPs).
Another ministry among people who have been displaced is involved in distributing food, organising accommodation, seeking work for IDPs and organising pastoral support for them in Lutsk, northwestern Ukraine. These displaced people either live within the ministry complex or in accommodation that has been rented for them. A number of them have come to faith in the Lord, been baptised and are now members of the fellowship. They require a considerable amount of pastoral care. I was encouraged to join the group for Bible study, discussion and prayer and experience what God is doing among them.
It is a real privilege to hear from those who have been able to visit brothers and sisters in Ukraine and to see what God is doing at this difficult time. We urge you to pray that God will keep those who are involved in transport safe and that God will bless every ministry being done for Him.