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UA Ukraine Crisis Church Fund
Project # 90965

Light Shines in the Darkness in Ukraine

In the days and weeks leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, MTW missionaries across Ukraine and neighboring countries were busy preparing for refugees they anticipated from the eastern parts of the country—where the initial invasion was first expected.

Missionaries, pastors, and church members all gathered food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and medicine in anticipation of what they hoped and prayed would not happen. Many churches even began to clear out their basements so they would be ready to be used as makeshift bomb shelters if needed.

War in the City

In the capital city of Kyiv, Ukraine, many expected the invasion would start in the cities further east as it had when Russia invaded in 2014. Fedya,* pastor of an MTW partner church and staff member at Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine in Kyiv, said, “We were preparing to accept refugees from the east. We were buying groceries, water, hygiene supplies.” But on the morning of February 24, things took a turn for the worse. It was the first day of the Russian army’s attack—on Kyiv. 

Fedya described hearing unidentifiable sounds early in the morning. He prayed, “Lord, no, please not the missiles.” But the sounds he described as a “series of loud thumps” were in fact the sounds of the full-scale invasion of Kyiv by the Russian army. 

As the bombs began falling on the city, Fedya said, “My first thought was, ‘Should I stay in my apartment? Or should I go urge people to go into the bomb shelters?’” He continued, “This was so unexpected; many of the bomb shelters weren’t even ready yet,” as many citizens in Kyiv didn’t believe the Russians would initially attack that far west.

In those early hours, Fedya decided to go outside and encourage people to seek safety. He said, “It was surreal. People were walking their dogs. No one knew what the explosions were.” Fedya estimated that up to 95% of the citizens in Kyiv were initially confused about what was happening because there wasn’t any information available. He remembered people calling out from their windows, “What is that sound?” and many of them refusing to believe it was the sound of war advancing on their city.

Jon Eide, MTW Ukraine’s country director who has served in Ukraine for 20 years, shared, “Someone has described this war as Ukraine’s version of the 9/11 attack on the United States. I’d add that it’s more like a daily 9/11 for Ukrainians.”

Across Ukraine, citizens were faced with a decision they didn’t have much time to make. They could stay in the city and seek safety in basements and bomb shelters, or they could attempt to travel west to cities like Lviv. Fedya explained, “Psychologically, most people felt safer in their basements than going outside. When the bombs are falling, the idea of traveling is scary and risky, even if that is the safest decision long-term.”

Many, including Fedya, who had already experienced and fled from the initial Russian invasion into Ukraine in 2014, decided to leave the city. Other leaders in Fedya’s church also decided it was best to flee the city. They began to call people in their church, encouraging them to leave. Some left and some decided to stay. Within days, the opportunity to leave was no longer an option as it became too dangerous to travel.

Extraordinary Hospitality

For those who left, traveling brought unanticipated challenges. Fedya explained, “We had to change our route several times because of ruined infrastructure.” At one point, they came upon a bridge the Russians had destroyed and had to find another way. Another time, Fedya said, “We had to switch routes because of danger from air raids. We traveled for three days before arriving in Uzhhorod located close to the Slovakian border.” 

The first night of their journey, Fedya drove through the night to get to safety. They arrived in Ternopil on the second night and stayed in one of the churches taking in refugees. Several churches in Ternopil had prepared food and mattresses for refugees and even provided showers for the weary travelers. Fedya said, “The churches in Ternopil were packed with people.” He remembered their generous hospitality. “There were so many people united and ready to help refugees and whoever needed help. The people of Ukraine are more united because of their great sufferings. The churches in Ternopil were ready to show people the real hope that we have in Christ.” As of this writing, Fedya and his family are staying in Ternopil for now as he wrestles with whether or not to send his wife and children across the border to greater safety.

Border Countries Step in to Help

Approximately 900 kilometers away in Spišska Nová Ves, Slovakia, MTW missionary Dan Gregoire lives with his wife, Rebecca, and eight children. Dan was praying about ways he could help serve those displaced by this war. He got a call from Doug Shepherd, MTW missionary serving in Lviv, Ukraine, who said they had a convoy of six vehicles transporting families with children to the Romanian border to the south.

Missionary

Doug asked Dan to secure three vans and drivers for them to help transport women and children in vehicles driven by Ukrainian men. The men would not be able to cross the border due to a mandate that Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 remain in the country, so those they were transporting would have to walk across the border and have other transportation on the other side. Dan quickly arranged vans and recruited drivers, including his pastor and an elder from his church. This began what turned into several trips back and forth, transporting people out of Ukraine to safety in Romania, Slovakia, and Poland.

Dan was overwhelmed by the hospitality of a church in Ardud, Romania. Dan said, “Our convoy arrived and there were three large tables in a hospitality room, set up with cooked chicken, potatoes, salads, and drinks, all prepared and ready for us when we arrived.” He continued, “They were so hospitable and loving to receive their brothers and sisters from Ukraine. They arranged housing, beds, and showers for everyone.” The next morning, the church hosted the group for breakfast before they continued their journey. Dan remembered, “During breakfast, the mayor of the town came and welcomed us. The mayor said he was happy to meet us but wished it was under different circumstances.”

Dan and the convoy made their way to a small, remote Hungarian/Romanian border crossing and were able to cross in 20 minutes.

The churches and believers in Ukraine and neighboring countries were ready to show extraordinary hospitality to others when the darkness of war fell upon them. Many have continued sacrificing, giving of themselves, as this war has continued. Dan shared that his family had over 20 people in their home in Slovakia at one point. And when asked what it was like for their family, he said, “Hospitality is our sweet spot. A huge focus of our ongoing ministry is hospitality.

Meal

The Gift of Prayer

Many Christians around the world have also shown hospitality by graciously giving and praying in support of the work being done. Millions of dollars have been raised and MTW missionaries are grateful for the opportunity to show the love of Christ by meeting the many needs that seem to be increasing by the hour; and they are anticipating that needs will be great as churches are rebuilt in Ukraine or replanted elsewhere.

In addition to financial gifts, many are asking for the gift of prayer. Fedya said, “I want to encourage people to not stop praying. We know the Lord hears and answers. He is sovereign over all that happens. We share about Christ the Lord. He gave us this command to pray. We ask you to pray that this outrageous evil would stop.” Fedya’s church, which is now scattered, gathers every morning online to encourage one other and pray together.  

As Ukrainian Christians continue to remind each of the light of Christ in these dark times, may Christians around the world continue to gather around them, giving and interceding for them, with persevering prayer as long the need exists.

For more information on how you can give and pray and to read recent updates visit mtw.org/ukraine-crisis.

*Last name omitted for security reasons. 




Andrew Hess, Kyiv Lviv Odesa Ukraine May 17, 2022
UA Ukraine Crisis Church Fund
Project # 90965
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Pray for MTW's ministry to refugees in Greece, Germany, Ukraine, Uganda, Panama, and the U.S.

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