Baptists in Europe continue to be creative, compassionate and relentless in providing humanitarian and pastoral support to Ukrainian refugees three months into Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor.
The latest report from the European Baptist Federation says needs continue to mount, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported May 17 that more than 6.2 million people have fled Ukraine, most of those being women, children and the elderly. The agency also tallied more than 3,700 civilians killed in the fighting.
The shock waves of Russia’s unprovoked invasion have been met head-on by Baptists throughout the region, EBF said. Baptists “from Spain, Portugal, the UK, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Bulgaria, Italy and many other contexts have given generously and are housing refugees with church families.”
In Romania, which borders Ukraine, Mănăștur Baptist Church has assisted more than 300 refugees with food, medical supplies, accommodations, transportation, job-finding services and emotional and spiritual counseling, EBF said.
A Ukrainian passing through Romania on the way to Italy said the congregation’s support was positively life-altering: “‘I never experienced so much love in all my life. We want to be part of such a church, so please help us find one like yours in Italy.”
“‘I never experienced so much love in all my life. We want to be part of such a church, so please help us find one like yours in Italy.”
Two Ukrainian pastors, an evangelist and three Sunday school teachers were among the refugees hosted by the Romanian congregation, EBF said. “They are actively contributing to church services and are reaching out to other Ukrainians in the area.”
A group of churches in neighboring Slovakia have created a logistics ministry that sends truckloads of humanitarian aid into Ukraine and purchases food, helps with doctors’ visits, employment assistance and school placement for refugees in Slovakia.
EBF said the support includes equal amounts of pastoral care and worship opportunities, where possible.
“Churches continue to provide a warm welcome and are seeing growth. Before the war, a Ukrainian church plant in Bratislava had a congregation of 50 people; now it has closer to 150. The Slovak Baptist Union has recently obtained 5,000 Ukrainian children’s Bibles, which they plan to distribute free of charge. They are financially supporting a Christian nursery for Ukrainian children in Bratislava… . One congregation in Ružomberok is running a playgroup for Ukrainian children and providing Slovak lessons and art therapy for adults.”
Baptists within Ukraine also have developed and grown comprehensive wartime ministries to aid those trapped in the invasion that began Feb. 24 — and often while maintaining the services they provided before the conflict, EBF said.
“Irpin Bible Church is housing a team of up to 70 volunteers. They spend their days repairing damaged homes, delivering hot food to the armed forces and welcoming people into the church to wash their clothes, charge their phones and collect basic necessities such as food and clothing. Pastors and deacons are on hand to provide pastoral care.”
Church of the Resurrection in the Odessa region of Ukraine has continued its pre-war ministries including support for blind people and operating drug addiction rehabilitation centers.
Churches inside Ukraine press on with delivering food, medicine and other necessities to those in need, some of whom are still sheltering in basements.”
“The Ukrainian Baptist Union Coordination Center continues to distribute aid across Ukraine,” IBF noted. “To date they have sent out at least 320 vehicles filled with humanitarian supplies from their warehouse in Lviv. Churches inside Ukraine press on with delivering food, medicine and other necessities to those in need, some of whom are still sheltering in basements.”
EBF added that such ministries often continue even in the midst of heavy fighting — including on the most sacred day on the Christian calendar. “On Easter Day, church services were held across Ukraine, with many non-Christians attending. In the Chernihiv region alone, 25 people gave their life to Jesus during the Easter celebrations. However, in the Luhansk region only one church was able to gather for Easter worship because of heavy shelling.”
Donetsk and Luhansk are the continued targets of that shelling, EBF said. “Local churches continue to provide aid and are helping to evacuate those wishing to leave. The communications network in Luhansk has been destroyed, and the city of Lysychansk has no electricity or water supply.”
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