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Paul Nance, coordinating minister for the Hillsboro Church of Christ, speaks on the Kelley Clarkson Show.
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Christians in U.S. check off ‘bucket lists’ for Ukraine

Churches across the nation gather supplies to help refugees in war-torn Eastern Europe — and get a $10,000 boost from TV host Kelly Clarkson.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A project by Churches of Christ to send buckets of supplies to the people of Ukraine got Kelly Clarkson’s attention — thanks to a $5 bill.

Credit Finnegan Roberts, a sixth-grader in Lisa Shaffer’s class at Meigs Magnet Middle School in Nashville. Roberts took part in a project to place plastic bags with $5, an inspirational note and a piece of candy at places around town. The goal: to encourage others to do acts of service.

Roberts chose to leave a bag on the door of the Hillsboro Church of Christ, where she and her family have served through the Room in the Inn program. During winter months, Hillsboro and other Nashville-area churches house the homeless as part of the program. Hillsboro staffers found the money and put it toward a “staff bucket” that they filled as part of the church’s Ukraine relief.

Producers with the “Kelly Clarkson Show” found out about the school project and invited Roberts and Shaffer to appear on the show for a segment called “Good Neighbors.”

Clarkson, the singer/songwriter who rose to fame by winning the first season of “American Idol,” interviewed the teacher and student about the project before bringing out a surprise guest — Paul Nance, coordinating minister for the Hillsboro church.

“They look disappointed,” Nance joked. “I think they wanted Snoop Dogg.” (The hip-hop artist and Clarkson co-host the reality show “American Song Contest.”)

Clarkson told Nance, “I love your energy. … I need a dose of it!” She also praised the efforts of the church and of Shaffer’s class, comparing them to the story of the widow’s two mites in Luke 21.

“It’s important to remember that every little bit counts,” Clarkson said. She then announced that her show would donate an additional $10,000 to the church’s bucket campaign.

Filling buckets with Santa

Clarkson wasn’t the only celebrity pitching in to help Ukraine. On the campus of Lipscomb University, St. Nicholas himself was doing his part.

His long, white beard flowing over red-and-white-striped overalls, Danny Jackson sat at a small table, gently wrapping sets of small paring knives with bright green handles and placing them in a cardboard box. Eventually, they’ll be presents for the people of Ukraine.

Danny Jackson wraps paring knives that will be placed in buckets and sent to refugees of the war in Ukraine.

Danny Jackson wraps paring knives that will be placed in buckets and sent to refugees of the war in Ukraine.

“Yes, I am a professional Santa,” Jackson said, anticipating The Christian Chronicle’s first question. It seemed appropriate, since the third century saint who gave rise to the jolly old elf’s legend was born in Turkey, which shares the Black Sea with Ukraine.

More importantly for Jackson, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Coast Guard, packaging relief supplies was “some way I can help out.” So he and his wife, Corine (also known as Mrs. Claus), joined fellow members of the Hillsboro Church of Christ and other congregations to help Lipscomb students fill 1,000 paint buckets with relief supplies for those displaced by the war in Eastern Europe.

The Jacksons serve on the board of SeaStar Kids, a Nashville-based nonprofit that serves disadvantaged youths in Ukraine through summer Bible camps, year-round faith-building activities and college scholarships. Its founder, Dr. Gary Jerkins, surveyed the tables to make sure there were enough T-shirts, coloring books and wool hats to fill the buckets. 

Volunteers and Lipscomb University students fill buckets with relief supplies for Ukraine.

Volunteers and Lipscomb University students fill buckets with relief supplies for Ukraine.

“It’s dreadful,” the ophthalmologist and Hillsboro member said of the images he’s seen of the devastation in Ukraine, a country he’s visited 47 times since 1996. “Some of the people we’re connected with, I haven’t heard from them in five weeks.”


Related: Ukraine crisis: How to help


The Hillsboro church sent 500 buckets to Ukraine in 2014 after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and pro-Russian separatists seized territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, displacing many Churches of Christ and forcing them into western Ukraine.

“It was a remarkably tangible thing” Christians could do in response to the crisis, Jerkins said. And some of those buckets led to baptisms — eight to 10 in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

“They had a bucket, and they knew that somebody cared,” Jerkins said.

A class project — 31 years later

Outside the arena, students placed buckets full of relief supplies on wooden pallets, grabbed empty ones and got back in line to fill them. Workers with Healing Hands International loaded the pallets onto trucks. From here, Healing Hands will transport them to Savannah, Ga., and then overseas to Gdansk, Poland, for distribution to refugees.

“I can’t imagine enduring such heartbreak and loss,” said Lauren Scott, a senior biology major from Fort Myers, Fla., of the refugees’ plight. Her congregation, the Otter Creek Church of Christ in nearby Brentwood, also is filling buckets for Ukraine. She was glad to be doing something to help.

Conor Adair, left, and fellow Lipscomb University students fill buckets for Ukraine.

Conor Adair, left, and fellow Lipscomb University students fill buckets for Ukraine during the university’s “Beautiful Day.”

It was also a way for students to earn service credits on a day when they didn’t have classes, added Connor Adair, a freshman musical theater student from Oklahoma City. Lipscomb’s president, Candice McQueen, had followed in her predecessors’ footsteps, declaring the day after her inauguration a “Beautiful Day.” That meant no classes and lots of activities — including the buckets for Ukraine. McQueen and her family worship with the Hillsboro Church of Christ. Her husband, Andy McQueen, serves as an elder.

Sean Judge, a worker with Healing Hands International, grinned as he heard students talk about bucket-filling as an easy way to get service project credits.

After all, “this whole thing was for a grade,” said Judge, who directs the nonprofit’s Walk4Water program.

Thirty-one years ago, students of Lipscomb marketing professor Randy Steger launched a class project to meet the mounting medical needs in the collapsing Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The students devised a system to send suitcases, filled with medical supplies, with missionaries headed to the region. Soon, the donated supplies spilled out of Lipscomb’s auditorium, and university officials asked them to find another place to store them. The result was Healing Hands, which has shipped relief supplies to more than 75 countries.

Students at Lipscomb University write messages of hope to the people who will receive buckets of relief supplies.

Students at Lipscomb University write messages of hope to the people who will receive buckets of relief supplies.

When Healing Hands’ president, Art Woods, found out about Dr. Gary Jerkins’ latest bucket-filling initiative through SeaStar Kids, Woods offered to buy additional buckets for the cause. So did John Kachelman Jr., a longtime minister who coordinates Ukraine Missions, a ministry of the Dalraida Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala. In all, the multi-ministry effort will send at least 10,000 buckets to Eastern Europe.


Related: Why Ukraine matters to Churches of Christ


At Lipscomb, students grabbed cards with a message of hope, typed in the Ukrainian language. On the back they wrote additional messages in English before sealing the cards in the buckets. 

Jerry Blythe loads buckets of relief goods onto a truck at Healing Hands International's warehouse in Nashville.

Jerry Blythe loads buckets of relief goods onto a truck at Healing Hands International’s warehouse in Nashville.

About five miles away, at Healing Hands’ warehouse near the Nashville zoo, workers loaded additional buckets, received from churches across the country.

Members of the Bagdad Church of Christ in Tennessee attached notes of encouragement to their Ukraine buckets.

Members of the Bagdad Church of Christ in Tennessee attached notes of encouragement to their Ukraine buckets.

The ministry provided a “bucket list” of supplies that church members purchased. Several decorated their buckets with hearts, flowers and phrases such as “Prayers for Ukraine.”

Jerry Blythe climbed atop a stack of buckets as he helped to fill a trailer for the long journey overseas. By the time the trailer was full, Blythe was covered in sweat and out of breath — but all for a higher purpose.

“We want to help out any way we possibly can,” said Blythe, a member of the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, Tenn., speaking for his fellow retirees who volunteer for Healing Hands. “We give God all the glory.”

Jesus went about helping people, he said. As a result of the benevolence work, “maybe many souls will be saved for Christ.”

 

Buckets waiting for transport to Ukrainian refugees bear messages of hope.

Buckets waiting for transport to Ukrainian refugees bear messages of hope.

Gary Jerkins said he’s appreciative of the interest and attention the campaign has generated.

But that interest will fade, he added, and the needs in Ukraine won’t soon disappear. The devastation and the disruption of millions of lives will have long-term effects that will require a long-term commitment to service.

“We’re in the sprint phase right now,” he said, “but this is a marathon.”

Filed under: Christianity in Ukraine Churches of Christ in Ukraine International National Partners Top Stories Uncategorized

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