Relief Funds Aid Ukrainians on the FrontlinesBrenda Hamm
June 24 Update: Since this story was first reported, Daria’s husband has left the village and is safe with his family in Zaporozhye, where they are living at a hostel. Because he has not yet found a job, the family continues to receive food from the refugee center at Reimer Center. Without this assistance the family doesn’t know how they’d survive.
Daria’s mother and grandmother remain in the village, where the situation is very hard. The people are scared and unsure of what to do. Russians threaten to kill the villagers if they don’t plant crops in the vast fields in and around the village. But people can’t plant because the Russians have destroyed all the equipment and taken the grain.
The volunteers that helped Daria to evacuate are now safe. One of them spent six days in “the hands of Russians.” He was tortured and returned very thin, with bruises all over his body. He was not given any food, just water and the Russians threatened to kill him if he helped more people.
Daria and her three children, Artur, Vera and baby Anya (not pictured) are from Voskresenka, Zaporizhzhia region. The family was evacuated by fearless volunteers from Polohy.
Unfortunately, the volunteers were taken by Russians right after and nobody knows where they were taken.
Daria’s husband stayed at home, as did her mother and grandmother who was very sick and bed-ridden. Russian soldiers who are controlling their village are not letting her husband leave. She decided to leave for her children. Daria hardly has any communication with her family and usually it’s very short to just find out if they are still alive.
Daria and her children are safe now, but she obviously can’t even begin to look for a job to provide for them so iCare food boxes are the only source of provision for them in this difficult time.
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is bringing death, pain, suffering, trauma, destruction to the Ukrainian people. It is also displacing millions of people.
Among the displaced, are the people of 20 churches in the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU). The church buildings are still standing and no lives have been lost, but nothing else has remained as it was before the invasion began on February 24, 2022. Approximately 20-30 percent of the people belonging to the AMBCU churches stayed in their homes, another 20 percent fled the country, and the rest moved to other parts of Ukraine, mainly in the west, to find safety.
Approximately one third of AMBCU churches are under Russian occupation. They are now isolated and can only hold services in homes. AMBCU tries to help these churches as much as possible by delivering food, but only in small amounts since it is sometimes confiscated at Russian checkpoints.
Many pastors have become missionaries. After taking their churches to safety, they have started new ministries serving the refugees in other locations.
MB Pastors like Sergei Panasovich, are going to the frontlines to evacuate people and bring supplies. AMBCU new ministry objectives require financial support. These efforts are what the Ukraine MB Church Relief Fund, established by MB Foundation, is supporting.
“It’s a huge support for pastors and ministers who don’t have any income as they left the area, lost everything, and have to start everything from scratch,” says Sergei Panasovich. “I can say that this financial support united everyone, and our AMBCU team got a second wind.”
The churches in Ukrainian territories have formed 10 refugee assistance centers that serve the refugees, providing basic aid and meeting their spiritual needs. Three of those centers are close to the front lines now.
A team of 30 people work from a center in Zaporizhzhia every single day from morning till night, serving the refugees by feeding them, distributing iCare food packages, and providing them with clothes. They always hold short services to encourage people, praying for them, sharing the gospel, and singing with them. They are there for the refugees to hear their stories, feel their pain, and cry together. Some team members even sleep at the center sometimes because they are not able to leave before the curfew.
A team of 20 MB individuals work in Mukachevo, located in western Ukraine. They find sources of humanitarian aid, to bring in from abroad or to purchase. They also send iCare food packages, clothes, hygiene items, and other relief aid supplies to the frontlines. Teams take them to destroyed villages and towns, distributing supplies to people in need. On their way back, they bring people from dangerous areas who want to evacuate. Team members help them get to the border and also find churches in Europe that can receive the refugees.
“We would have never been able to do this work without the support of our friends at MB Foundation. MB Foundation has provided the biggest support to the AMBCU. The money they give us is literally saving lives,” says Roman Rakhuba, Chair of AMBCU.
As of early June, $224,500 of the $327,500 received for the Ukraine MB Church Relief Fund has been distributed to AMBCU. The funds have been used in three ways:
- To support MB leaders and their teams. Each of the 8 leaders receives an equal part; then the team decides what they use the money for. It’s mainly for things like transportation expenses, evacuation of people, warehouse renting, food, and anything else they need for life and ministry.
- To purchase 3 vans for ministry. They are used to take iCare food packages and humanitarian aid from Mukachevo to Kharkiv and Donetsk region, and on the way back, they bring people from those dangerous areas who want to evacuate to western Ukraine or to the border.
- To buy food for iCare packages.
The food and energy crises are worsening and food is in demand as never before. People are running out of food they had stored up. The government doesn’t have food to give out, so the Ukrainians have to rely on humanitarian aid. Everyone asks for food, including the centers, organizations, churches, and even governmental institutions. Food is a number one necessity.
Until recently, places like Kamyanske village were thriving. There were a few farms that provided people with jobs and provided many stores around Ukraine with fresh produce. Now the village is on the front lines and constantly under shelling, destroying the infrastructure. The farmers can’t work, their agricultural equipment is ruined, and the green houses are also half destroyed. Instead of being planted with seeds, the fields are “planted” with missiles.
Anna, now 92 grew up in this village and worked as a milk lady all her life. “As long as I can remember myself, we always had cows. My mom told me that our cow Zor’ka saved my life during the famine. During the famine of 1932-1933, many people of the village died of starvation… I would have loved to have a cow even now but I don’t have the strength to look after it anymore,” shares Anna as she wipes away her tears.
It’s very hard for her to live through the war again. To an offer to evacuate she says, “I could go to a safer place, but why? I am an old lady. This is where I was born. This is where I will die.”
Anna gratefully received an iCare package. When she saw the New Testament, tears started running down her face. She explained, “The communists taught us that there was no God. But He does exist. He sent you to me so that this old lady would live a little longer.” The team that visited her was very touched by those words. They offered to pray for her and she was very happy.
One leader sums up their ministry by saying, “Each resident of this village has their own sad story. And while there are those who need our help, we’ll continue helping them, sharing with them about God’s mercy, His saving love, and care about each one of them.”
To join in supporting the relief efforts of AMBCU, visit www.mbfoundation.com/ukrainerelief.