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Ukraine: Mission workers report rockets, relief

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (BP) — Hostilities between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists flared up again two weeks ago with a surprise attack on the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

In the aftermath of a Jan. 24 rocket strike that left 27 dead and 123 injured in Mariupol, Ukrainian Baptists are busy providing shelter and repairs. Locals say in addition to the 13 buildings that suffered a direct hit, 73 blocks of apartment buildings were damaged and more than 100 cars were destroyed.

Both the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have expressed concern that a humanitarian crisis is looming in eastern Ukraine, due to both the escalation of fighting and harsh winter conditions.

“Bus stops and public transport, marketplaces, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and residential areas have become battlegrounds in [eastern] regions of Ukraine — in clear breach of international humanitarian law,” UN high commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a press release.

The attack on Mariupol came on a day when one of the local Baptist churches was holding a conference for its members. Although the church building is located where much of the shelling took place, it was not damaged. By noon, church members had helped to assess nearby damage and opened their doors to house up to 100 victims of the barrage.

An International Mission Board worker is helping pastors from this region and is coordinating with the church to provide cleanup and restoration to apartment buildings that were damaged in the attack.

The worker described “Pastor Alexander” (name changed), the 73-year-old Ukrainian Baptist pastor of the church, as his “hero.”

“Since the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine his church has been working to provide medicine, food and other relief to other areas that have come under attack,” the worker said. “Now, with his own city under direct attack, he is organizing the Baptist youth of Mariupol to go into the bombed neighborhoods of their city to clean up and put plastic over broken and shattered windows to keep out the cold.”

The worker noted it will take months to replace all the windows in the affected area.

He said IMB project “Rebirth: Eastern Ukraine” has been established so people can give directly to the efforts to help families recover from the effects of the attacks. This project specifically helps to provide building materials to complete basic home repairs — like providing windows and doors — for bombed apartment buildings and houses.

Believers will work alongside homeowners, providing a Christian witness as they spend time with them, the worker said.

“This will help people not only rebuild their homes, but to help them rebuild their lives on a solid biblical foundation,” he said. “As we bring physical materials, it is our hope that God will open doors in order to speak about spiritual needs in everyday life. Then there truly will be rebirth in every sense.”

IMB asks for prayer for Christian workers in the area as they seek ways to help and minister to those caught in the conflict. Pray for a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. Pray that lives will be changed and that people will repent and be saved as a result of Christian witness during this time of war.

To see more related stories on Baptist Press and imb.org, click here and here. For more information on how to be involved, join the Rebirth: Eastern Ukraine Facebook page at facebook.com/RebirthEUA or send questions to [email protected].

EDITOR’S NOTE: See letter below from Pastor Alexander.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings! The war that is going on in the eastern part of Ukraine has led us to people losing their homes, work and means of living. All the help that we receive is taken to places inside the war zone.

At the moment, after the severe shelling of our town, the believers of our churches decided to restore houses, provide spiritual and humanitarian aid (food supplies, medicine, building materials, shoes and clothes). We are cleaning up, restoring homes.

The refugees and many of those whose houses are uninhabitable are staying in the church or in the homes of church members.

We kindly ask you to consider helping us. We know that under the current situation you cannot actually be here. But if the Lord lays it on your heart to help, you might address it to [[email protected]].

We wish you God’s blessings,

Pastor Alexander

Mariupol, Ukraine

To join in this effort, please consider giving to this strategic effort — Rebirth: Eastern Ukraine.

    About the Author

  • Marc Ira Hooks