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In Ukraine: He lifts church’s resolve to stay open

[SLIDESHOW=41257,41258,41259,41260]UKRAINE (BP) — Life along the road to the war front seemed normal — gardens surrounding every home, villagers taking their cows out to pasture, huge sunflower fields dotting the landscape nearby. It didn’t look like we were less than 13 miles from the war front.

I met Victor* last summer. At that time, the 30-something believer was helping evacuate people from Ukrainian towns and villages where the war was raging. Now he works with a ministry that assists internally displaced people.

Two to three times a week, Victor visits the war front to deliver food and hope to those most in need.

This particular morning, we loaded 300-plus loaves of bread directly from a bakery into a van and headed toward the front at 5:30 a.m. After six checkpoints in more than two hours on the road, we finally arrived.

Two hundred yards from the church stood three buildings that had been heavily damaged by mortar shells the other day. Fortunately, the church building did not sustain any damage.

We were greeted by Sasha*, a young man in his 20s whose age disguises his maturity and his heart for the people who have endured more than a year of war.

Sasha is not the pastor of this church, but he finds himself in that position now that the pastor and another leader have left. Someone suggested they lock up the church building and all of them leave.

“I was against the idea,” Sasha said. “The church, like Christians, must stand in the most difficult times. We must be here to minister.”

The church is doing just that. Every day they prepare a hot meal and deliver it by bicycle to more than 40 people unable to leave their homes due to physical immobility. They started distributing food back in February when temperatures were below freezing, and they have continued to deliver meals no matter the weather.

“Ministry isn’t just singing songs and preaching on Sundays,” Sasha said. “During this time, we need to go to the people and help deliver food and water,” he said, commenting on full scope of “true ministry.”

Someone donated a generator to the church, so now they are able to provide a charging place for phones and computers when the electricity doesn’t work.

Covering windows and roofs damaged by shelling is another ministry of the church. With winter not too far away, they hope to purchase particleboard to cover broken windows.

Funds also are needed for a vehicle to deliver food to the homebound and for medicine and other supplies that are in demand because no shops are open in the city.

When Victor and others come to town, they take food packets to families with children. Victor and his ministry receive some support from Global Hunger Fund gifts from Southern Baptists distributed by Baptist Global Response to provide the packets. To help bring a smile to the numerous kids waiting for him, Victor also brings Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes of school and hygiene supplies and small toys.

“Before the war, few people knew there was a Baptist church. Now, everyone knows there is a Baptist church,” Sasha remarked about the role the church now plays in the community.

Sasha’s sister, who started attending the church again after the war began, said her life has been changed.

“I know that without God, I’m no one,” she said.

She commented that she has a small child and there isn’t any place to buy food or diapers.

“I was praying how to feed my baby,” she said. After a moment of silence and tears streaming down her face, she said the body of Christ “is living up to its name.”
*Names changed.

Learn more — If you or your church would like more information about how IMB is working with churches inside the Ukrainian war zone, contact [email protected].

Give — To help families replace windows, doors and roofs that have been damaged in areas around the conflict zone where the war has stopped, go to https://netcommunity.imb.org/giving-search-page; in the “Find projects by keywords” search box, type “Rebirth” for more information on how to give. To give to Global Hunger Relief, go to www.globalhungerrelief.com; to assist the work of Baptist Global Response, go to gobgr.org.