The European Baptist Federation reports that churches across Ukraine continue to provide spiritual and material support to war victims even in areas under heavy attack or already overrun by Russian forces.
“Churches continue to be active in the Kherson region, almost all of which is under occupation. They gather for services and joint prayer meetings and organize help for all they can,” EBF said in its most recent situation report on the war that has created more than 3.7 million refugees.
Churches there and in the nearby towns of Olshkiv, Novokahovka and Chulakivsk remain engaged in a “huge initiative” to feed and find accommodations for displaced persons and to minister to local residents hiding in bomb shelters. Members of Golgotha Church in Kherson also have been caring for children from an orphanage they had to abandon at the start of the war, the federation said.
“Small churches are involved in extraordinary efforts. Take the Philadelphia Church in Ternopil, a city in western Ukraine. Despite having only 40 members, every day it receives around 100 people, many with pets, who are evacuating. It gives them food, rest and shelter in its building. In total it has helped 7,000 people, with the help of friends and partners.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine and in neighboring nations, Baptists are among the faith groups working at a feverish pace to provide material, emotional and spiritual assistance to refugees and others impacted by the Russian invasion.
“According to the updates from the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists, churches are involved in a range of activities including evacuation, resettlement, delivery of home-cooked food and humanitarian supplies and provision of spiritual care and prayer support.”
That support is occurring in some of the hardest-hit areas, including the city of Mariupol, which has been under attack for more than two weeks and where an estimated 350,000 residents are hunkered in bomb shelters. Baptist churches in the area are helping people evacuate the city and delivering medicine from western Ukrainian cities not under immediate threat.
But there is rarely enough food or medicine to meet all needs, a church deacon reported. “‘Unfortunately, food runs out quickly, and we need to go there and back, again and again. Lots of money is spent on fuel for buses and generators. One of the buses breaks every now and then. We need help.”
Russia’s ongoing heavy bombardment of the cities of Lysychansk, Severodonetsk and Rubizhne has not kept congregations from helping their neighbors, EBF said.
“In the midst of this, the Church of the Transfiguration in Severodonetsk continues to be active, evacuating families, hosting the homeless and distributing food kits to sick and elderly people in the city. The church was only established in 2016 and had previously focused its ministry on people struggling with addictions. Their activities in the war mean that former alcoholics and drug addicts have become true heroes of the faith, preaching the gospel and hope in the Lord.”
The federation noted that the whole of eastern Ukraine is the site of the most savage fighting, creating a violent ministry context for some Baptists in that part of the country. “Churches are providing shelter during air raids, and in quieter times their members are visiting those who are elderly or ill.”
When possible, churches have tried to provide a sense of normalcy to those who are suffering. “In the Cherkasy region, more than a thousand displaced people are housed safely in church buildings every night. In Lviv, one local church held a baby shower for three mothers-to-be who had fled the fighting, bringing hope in the midst of suffering.”
Baptists in neighboring nations have risen to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Romanian churches “are working with local authorities to help long-term refugees find work, arrange schooling and integrate into society. Christians in Bucharest have set up the Ruth Refugee Center, which has provided 106 Ukrainians with a safe place to sleep since the start of March,” EBF said. “Other neighboring countries — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova — all continue to respond to the crisis on an incredible scale, housing refugees, transporting those in need and giving out food, clothing and medicine.”
Even in nations that do not share a border with Ukraine, churches are heavily involved in aiding victims of the war, the federation added. “Baptists in Spain, Portugal, the UK, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Bulgaria, Italy, Scotland and others have given and are working to house refugees with church families.”
Where to see Jesus in suffering, even in the war in Ukraine | Opinion by Terry Austin