Spontaneous Love: Ukrainian Church Plant Reaches Out to Refugees

In 2014 eastern Ukraine was engulfed in conflict. Hundreds of thousands fled the fighting, but some could not. Many of the elderly and disabled took shelter in their basements—and there they were trapped in the dark for over a month, with barely enough food to survive. When the food ran out, they decided to make a run for it.

Many who escaped their cities found their way to the province of Odessa, where the government housed them in sanatoriums, large vacation complexes along the Black Sea coast.

Just southwest of Odessa is the town of Belgorod. It is here, in a little Ukrainian church planted by MTW missionaries, that a story of mercy began.

The pastor of the church in Belgorod saw that, though the refugees had been given basic supplies and a place to stay by the government, they needed more food, clothing, medical care, and counseling. Many were elderly or disabled.

With no Red Cross or similar organization providing aid, it was the local church that began reaching out and helping, embracing the displaced like family. 

We’ve got to do something
Bob and Andrea Burnham have been serving in Ukraine as church planters with MTW since 1995. “That church was one of the first churches we helped plant when we came to Ukraine,” said Bob, who now works with a church plant in Odessa. “They called us and said: ‘Hey, we’ve got to do something about this.’”

Churches in Odessa and Belgorod began bringing food, clothing, and medicine to the sanatoriums. They sent pastors and a team of counselors specially trained to minister to those affected by trauma and PTSD. Churches in the U.S. helped purchase medical supplies. Though the Burnhams and MTW were instrumental in starting these churches, now the Ukrainian church members and leadership were taking initiative and leading the charge to help their hurting countrymen.

When the Burnhams, other MTW missionaries, and national partners first started the Presbyterian denomination in Odessa, “We all wanted a church that would not only preach the truth, but would also transform and bring healing to communities,” Bob said. “And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

“It’s almost as if the closer they get to God, the more they can see the needs,” he added. “They love these people and care for them, and it’s a great testimony.

“It’s the same passion that God has for widows and orphans and the homeless, those who are in need. You look at the Old Testament and it’s peppered with God’s love for the outsider, the foreigner, the refugee. I believe God’s Holy Spirit has given a new heart and the love of Christ to these people.”

Is God calling you to serve in Ukraine? Visit mtw.org/serve to explore opportunities. 

___________________________

This year’s pre-conference to the PCA Global Missions Conference is “Welcoming the Refugee.” Join us in Dallas November 9–10 to learn about refugee and immigration issues from ministry experts. You’ll hear powerful stories of changed lives and find out how you can be part of a worldwide kingdom movement to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the displaced. Learn more at www.mtw.org/preconference.
 
Andrew Shaughnessy in Kyiv Lviv Odessa Ukraine Mercy on Jun 6, 2017

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Pray for Ukrainian refugees who are being welcomed by the church in Belgorod to be drawn to Christ. 

Pray for MTW's ministry to refugees in Greece, Germany, Ukraine, Uganda, Panama, and the U.S.

Pray for teams teaching English (ESL) as a part of their ministry and for the students who attend English classes/camp.

Thank God for bringing Ukrainians to faith in Him and giving them the vision to reach their own country for Christ. Pray for many more to be transformed.

Pray for two women, Monika and Andrea, who have recently come to faith against the odds in a hard-to-reach, largely atheistic European city.

Pray for Monika, that God would continue to heal her, give her a new purpose, and protect her life from physical harm, and for Andrea, that she would grow deep roots of faith and be a witness to those like her—unlikely subjects—of the reality of the grace of God.

Pray for Ukraine refugees who have had to abandon their homes due to the fighting. Pray for God to use their displacement to draw them to Himself.

Pray for the safety of believers in Ukraine. Pray for God to use the crisis to strengthen their faith and bring more Ukrainians to Christ.

Pray for believers in Ukraine during a time of political uncertainty.

Give thanks to God for believers in Ukraine who are standing strong and joining together across denominations for prayer.

Pray for the MTW team in Bulgaria and for those they serve.