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Baptists assess damage in eastern Ukraine

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (BP) — Cities in eastern Ukraine once held by pro-Russian separatists are slowly returning to normal as residents begin to rebuild their war-torn lives.

International Mission Board workers Joy Burnett* and Tom Long* spent a day in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk to assess needs and determine how Southern Baptists can help.

“I am still trying to process what I saw,” Burnett said from her home in Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city spared by the war. “I could feel the tears rising in my throat, but they just haven’t come yet. I was impacted deeply, but I just haven’t let those feelings come to the surface yet.”

Burnett and Long spent their day touring the city and visiting with church leaders, as well as a children’s facility and the apartment of a woman who lost her home as a result of the attacks on the city.

There are many needs in Slovyansk and other towns that had been occupied but are now liberated, Long said.

“Most of these people depend on the food from their summer garden to get them through the winter,” he said. “But the city was under siege from April to July, so there is no food from the gardens.”

Food for the winter months is just one of many needs residents will have as they begin to rebuild their cities and their lives, Long said.

“It’s not like you drive into the city and there are huge buildings that are flattened or missing. But there were many buildings that were damaged. Many have holes in the roofs or walls of the building,” he said. “And if we are going to help these folks be able to get through the winter, we need to begin working soon.”

Long and Burnett are working alongside Baptist Global Response to help Southern Baptists mobilize relief efforts in eastern Ukraine. “Southern Baptists always rise to the occasion,” Long said. “And I know they will do the same here.”

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*Name changed. Marc Ira Hooks is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Marc Ira Hooks