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Colorado church collects $61,000 for Ukrainian relief on Easter Sunday

Cross Fellowship Church in Colorado Springs hosts a prayer service prior to Easter Sunday. The church had 12 events leading up to April 17, where attendees at its Black Forest campus gave $61,000 toward Ukrainian relief. Photo from Cross Fellowship

COLORADO SPRINGS (BP) – A culture of generosity and missions was on display April 17 at Cross Fellowship Church and shows what is possible through having a heart for those in need of the Gospel and a cup of cold water, said Pastor Bob Bender.

On Easter, church members responded to a request to help Ukrainian refugees in a big way – by giving approximately $61,000. That amount was in addition to, not instead of, members’ regular tithe.

“See the need. Say the need. Seize the day to meet the need,” Bender told Baptist Press on the church’s philosophy toward missions. “Our people saw the need. All they needed was a valid venue to express their concern.”

Sunday was far from the first time Cross Fellowship has expressed such concern.

Currently, the church directly supports 14 missionaries around the world in addition to taking part in local missions. The goal for its annual missions offering is at least $150,000. Send Relief President Bryant Wright spoke at Cross Fellowship’s missions conference last October while North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell is scheduled for this fall. In 2021, the church gave 16.6 percent of its budget toward missions, including 7 percent of undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program.

The April 17 offering came from the approximately 800 in attendance at Cross Fellowship’s Black Forest campus. Its other campus in Palmer Park continued with a regular offering benefitting a local pregnancy care center.

The church’s “boots on the ground,” as Bender calls them, are Michael and Jan Gott, missionaries in Ukraine and Poland with whom Bender has had a friendship for years.

“Michael preached at First Baptist Church in Warsaw [April 17] to the Ukrainian refugees and saw many come to Jesus,” Bender said.

Leading up to Easter, the goal was to raise $20,000 “to fill one boxcar with food, clothes and Jesus,” he said. “We knew we were in good shape before our first offering when two families offered to give $4,000 each.”

Prior to raising enough for three boxcars’ worth of supplies, Cross Fellowship had already joined Southern Baptist churches that altogether have contributed more than $8 million toward Ukrainian relief thus far.

The physical needs notwithstanding, Bender pointed to the spiritual ones of utmost importance and the lengths those like the Gotts are taking to deliver both.

“He was in the [Kyiv] subways sharing Christ with Ukrainians while the bombs were falling,” Bender said. “He said, ‘Bob, what you see on TV is half the story. It’s heartbreaking.’”

Originally, Gott told Bender that $3,700 would fill a van of clothes, supplies and food for refugees. Bender shared that with Cross Fellowship, as well as how much it would take to fill a boxcar.

“I quoted 1 John 3:17,” he said. “That ‘if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’

An upper-middle class existence in a city like Colorado Springs can create some blind spots to the plight of others, not only across the world but down the street. It’s important to have a Christlike perspective of those needs, he said, adding: “We want to see the world through the eyes of the poor.”

See the need. Say the need. Seize the day to meet the need.

Before this year, Cross Fellowship’s Easter offering record was approximately $10,000. The church held a dozen Easter-related events that totaled 2,000 in attendance and led to 10 first-time decisions for Christ. Bender makes no apologies for making such financial appeals in a crowd containing many guests.

“Tell the people and trust the Lord,” he said. “We hit an open nerve. The Lord led us to make this appeal and it struck a responsive chord in people. I think they were waiting for a ministry of integrity that had zero percent overhead [and] the money went to meet human needs – a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.

“The Gospel is the hope of the world, not just food and medicine by itself. Like Jesus did, when you meet that physical need, it opens them to the Gospel.”