Ukraine crisis: How to help
Right now, the biggest need is money. That’s what missionaries…
Christians who escaped westward as Russia launched attacks on Ukraine expressed a mix of grief and survivor’s guilt as they viewed horrific images from the communities surrounding their besieged capital, Kyiv.
“Everything just pales in comparison to the grief we feel over the atrocities in Bucha and other cities,” said Brandon Price, who directs the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv. The school’s administration is coordinating relief efforts from Poland.
“We praise God that all those we know made it out of those areas in time,” Price said, “but doing so feels selfish because so many didn’t.”
As Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, about 35 miles northwest of Kyiv, media shared images of streets strewn with corpses, apparently killed at close range with their hands bound, the Associated Press reports. Ukrainian officials said that the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured in recent days.
Bodies were found near the area of a church-sponsored summer camp, said Alexander Rodichev, a church member from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro. He works with church members in the U.S. to coordinate Camp Amerikraine, an annual gathering of believers from both countries.
As Russian forces withdraw from the capital and western Ukraine, church members told The Christian Chronicle that they’re concerned attacks will intensify in the cities of the east, including Dnipro and Mariupol.
In Mariupol, a port city that has been all but obliterated by Russian artillery, 33 Christians were taking refuge in the meeting place of a Church of Christ.
“It’s been over a month and there has been zero contact with the Christians sheltering in the church building,” Price said.
Some believers who were not in the church building made it out of Mariupol. One was able to make contact with his mother, who’s taking refuge in Poland. “She went 22 days without hearing from him,” Price said.
As for the Christians in the church building, Price said, “we still don’t know how they are doing, how many have tried to evacuate, if the preacher who had been grazed by a bullet on his head is still in the hospital. … There is still so much we don’t know.”
South of Poland, a Church of Christ in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca loaded a trailer with food, cleaning supplies, medicine and tourniquets. Before making the seven-hour journey east to Ukraine, they plastered to the back of the trailer a sign reading, in large letters, “HUMANITARIAN AID.”
Meanwhile, in northern Ukraine, workers with a church-supported ministry loaded kids into a van. Before making the long journey west to a refugee shelter near Ukraine’s borders with the European Union, they plastered the vehicle with red tape, spelling out, in Russian, the word “CHILDREN.”
“The evacuation was a risky move,” Andrew Kelly said, “considering other attempts had been made by neighbors who were shot or blown up by RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) in the process.”
The children made it safely to the shelter, but “their journey is not yet complete,” said Kelly, founder of Jeremiah’s Hope, a ministry that serves orphans and at-risk children in Ukraine. He and his coworkers were busy securing housing and the necessary paperwork to relocate the children in the EU.
“The world is witnessing the greatest humanitarian and refugee crisis in Europe since World War II”
More than a month after Russia began its incursion into Ukraine, “the world is witnessing the greatest humanitarian and refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” Kelly said.
Some 4 million refugees have fled the country. Millions more have left their homes in eastern and central Ukraine and are huddled in shelters — and church buildings — in the west.
When explosions began Feb. 24, Price and his family made the painful decision to leave. They loaded their car and headed west toward Poland.
“Our safest places are under attack,” Rodichev told The Christian Chronicle as the attacks began. Rodichev worked with a Church of Christ in Dnipro, a city on the Dnieper River that separates east and west Ukraine. He planned to house evacuees fleeing from farther east.
But soon Dnipro also was under fire. Rodichev loaded his family in a car. A friend filmed him hugging the church building and bestowing it with a kiss before he headed west.
Now Rodichev is working congregations in southwestern Ukraine. He and fellow church members buy food for the displaced Ukrainians living there — some of them in the church building — and helps to ferry women and children to the borders of Romania, Slovakia and Poland. Congregations including the church in Cluj-Napoca provide relief supplies.
Price and his family are working with a Church of Christ in Sopot, Poland, which is housing about 50 Ukrainians, said Molly Dawidow, a longtime missionary in Sopot.
Her daughter, Annabelle Dawidow, coordinated a group of volunteers, who assembled 26 bunk beds for the refugees. She worked with an electrician, a plumber and the city’s sanitation system to make sure the facility was ready.
The congregation is one of many across Europe housing refugees.
In France, a small church that meets in a retreat center about three hours west of Paris has become a temporary home for Ukrainian families. As a result, the congregation’s size has nearly quadrupled, said missionary Zoobi Jones. She and her husband, Jerry, spend long days caring for the needs of their guests.
“It’s remarkable how these courageous women and children are coping, smiling in spite of it all,” Zoobi Jones said. “But it’s easy to see that often they are physically here, but of course their minds are far away.”
Julia Kachuck, a church member in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, took shelter with her daughter in a subway tunnel as the attacks began. Now they are staying with another church member in France, Sherry Pogue, who is housing 11 women and children.
“Will I ever see my mother again?” Kachuk wrote in a social media post. “We are scattered all over the earth. … I’m just crying. I can’t hold back the tears. Should I be ashamed of this?
“My home now, it’s a suitcase and a path — a path to a place (I) don’t know yet. We are the pilgrims. All I know is that God is leading somewhere.”
Back in Ukraine, Dima Grischuk drove east on a snow-covered road. He passed a small line of cars — all headed west.
“You see, here is the real winter,” the minister said in a video posted to social media. “We have 400 kilometers (to go), and we really hope that the weather will get better.”
Through Let’s Love, a ministry Grischuk launched after parts of eastern Ukraine fell to pro-Russian separatists in 2014, he coordinates caravans of Christians who take supplies to congregations in hard-hit areas. They help churches set up bomb shelters and deliver aid. And they offer rides back west to women and children who want to leave.
More and more Ukrainians are opting to leave. In Kyiv, minister Sasha Prokopchuk sent his family west toward Europe while he and his son stayed to continue their video ministry.
Prokopchuk, who once served in the Soviet army, has preached for Churches of Christ in the eastern city of Donetsk, now controlled by the separatists. He moved the ministry to Kyiv.
In a recent video, Prokopchuk stood amidst the burned wreckage of cars and apartment buildings in his home city.
It was the 37th day of war, he said, but it is “not just a war between two countries. It is a war between good and evil, a war between light and darkness.”
In Ukraine, “our spiritual weapon is love,” Prokopchuk said. “It is impossible to defeat love. Therefore, evil has no chance.”
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