LOVES PARK, IL — American Christians are helping thousands of people experiencing the horror of war in Ukraine through a local church-powered humanitarian aid machine.
The grassroots relief network delivers food, hygiene items and other supplies to desperate families that other aid agencies can’t reach in war-torn regions and remote villages across Ukraine.
In less than 5 months, the church-run emergency operation has distributed 124,000 bags of groceries, helping nearly 100,000 families with more than 5.4 million meals.
Food and other supplies are sorted and shipped on pallets by church volunteers in neighboring Poland, and then delivered by local church workers in Ukraine, part of an established network of evangelical churches supported by U.S. mission agency Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org). Each pallet load of food is enough to feed 100 families for a week, and more than 740 pallets have been shipped so far.
Unique Partnership, Tears of Gratitude
“There’s another side to this story — that is, what God is doing in the midst of this crisis,” said SGA president Michael Johnson, who recently returned from Ukraine. “Our strategy is not only meeting people’s physical needs, but also their spiritual needs, with local believers sharing the Gospel and giving them Bibles in their own language.”
The organization partners with the Baptist Union and its thousands of local churches across Ukraine, Poland, and the former Soviet Union – a unique partnership that goes back to pre-World War II.
“Many (people) have tears of gratitude,” said local church leader Vitaly, heading up the church relief efforts in Dnepropetrovsk, central Ukraine. “Most of them have nowhere to return to, as their homes have been destroyed.”
Mom, Kids Drank from Radiator
A young mom-of-2 hid in a basement for weeks with 90 other people to escape the bombing. To survive, they had to drink water drained from a radiator and strain out the rust.
One boy told how he and some neighbors were cooking food in the street when there was an explosion. When he looked up, a man next to him was “cut in half.”
In Ukraine’s conflict-ravaged Poltava region, Pastor Oleg Ovsly’s congregation delivers aid to families whose lives have been wrecked by the war, as well as local children with disabilities and the elderly.
One couple and their 5-year-old daughter – with no food and nothing to sleep on – were overwhelmed with gratitude when the church came to their rescue, Ovsly said. They represent thousands amazed by the compassion they’ve been shown by local churches on the frontlines.
Sanctuaries Turn into Aid Centers
Congregations throughout Ukraine and Poland – where more than 3.5 million refugees have flooded across the border – have welcomed streams of desperate families in the past months, quickly turning their sanctuaries into aid centers and Sunday School rooms into dormitories.
At one church in Odesa, Ukraine, that turned its basement into an emergency shelter with mattresses and beds, a volunteer said: “The doors (are) open to everyone.”
For many Ukrainians – who’ve grown up in the aftermath of communism and inbred atheism – it’s the first time they’ve been in a church or even met a Christian. “Most people (seeking shelter) in the churches are far from God,” said Pastor Volodymyr Shvets. “They hear about God for the first time and begin to pray.”
The churches’ hands-on care and their message that “God loves you” makes a powerful impact on shattered lives, says SGA’s Johnson. “The Gospel shared and the Gospel lived out is like an explosion of hope,” he said.
About Slavic Gospel Association
Founded in 1934, Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) helps “forgotten” orphans, widows and families in Russia, the former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel – caring for their physical needs and sharing the life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. SGA supports an extensive grassroots network of local evangelical missionary pastors and churches in cities and rural villages across this vast region.
Source: Christian News Wire, U.S. Christians Help Power ‘Church Aid Machine’ in Ukraine, Poland