Ukraine: ‘There is still so much we don’t know,’ but ‘evil has no chance’
Christians who escaped westward as Russia launched attacks on Ukraine…
CLUJ-NAPOCA, Romania — The baptistery here is full of vegetables.
A Church of Christ in this northern Romanian city has transformed its facility into a relief center for those fleeing the conflict just across the border in Ukraine. It’s the closest congregation in the fellowship to the war-torn nation.
Church members are housing Ukrainians in the building and in a rented facility next door. Refugees get three meals per day here. The church also operates a free grocery store. Ukrainians line up and take turns gathering food. They’re asked to gather enough for three days at a time.
Minister Dragos Vintila makes daily trips to the supermarket to buy huge crates of cabbages, eggs and other essentials. Christian Chronicle associate editor Audrey Jackson accompanied him on a supply run. She compared the experience to an episode of “Supermarket Sweep,” a U.S. game show where contestants run through a grocery store with carts, grabbing as much as they can before time expires.
“Believe me, I’ve done everything,” Vintila said of the past two months. That includes trips to the vet for refugees’ pets. “Whatever need they have, I try to help them.”
Volunteers have pitched in — and not just the church’s 20 members. Ukrainian refugees mop the floors, cook meals and serve as translators. Vintila’s wife, Sorina, said neighbors ask continually about what they need. From milk to mattresses, the neighbors bring carloads of supplies. Groups including the Charis Foundation also have helped.
“I don’t like having our names mentioned. This is not about us,” Sorina Vintila said. “This is God working through us.”
In addition to food, the refugees receive English lessons using the Bible. David Gibson, a preacher from Arkansas, teaches and preaches for the congregation on occasion. So do other volunteers.
A few days ago the church members had to clear the vegetables out of the baptistery for a baptism. One of the Ukrainians who studied English and worshiped with the congregation asked to put on Christ.
“Dragos asked her why,” the minister’s wife said. “She said, ‘I have been around you. I see how you treat people.’”
But the new convert also understands the gospel message, Sorina Vintila said. The refugee had studied English and was considering baptism. Then David Gibson, who didn’t realize that she was close to a decision, preached on “Why should I be a member of the Church of Christ?”
“He explained everything she needed to hear,” Sorina Vintila said. “You can call it coincidence. I call it God’s providence.
“It was perfect timing, but it was not our timing. This is how God works.”
In many ways “I have lost my faith in humanity,” especially since the war began, she added. But as she watches the response of her brothers and sisters — Romanian, Ukrainian and American — she realizes that “there is still hope.”
“God still works through people,” she said. “He’s using each one of us.”
ERIK TRYGGESTAD and AUDREY JACKSON are in Eastern Europe reporting on the impact of the war in Ukraine on churches.
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