Responding to Ukraine Crisis
“Are we safe here?”
“Will my parents survive?”
“Should I return to my country and enlist?”
“What is going to happen to me?”
“When will this end?”
These are just some of the questions that Resonate Global Mission missionaries Brian and Erin Bronsink are hearing from students at LCC International University in Lithuania as they monitor the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and worry about loved ones.
Through Resonate and ReFrame Ministries, the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) has programs across Eastern Europe. These staff and partners are seeing ramifications of the intensifying situation across the region.
As the needs of refugees and internally displaced people increase, World Renew is working with its international partners to provide humanitarian assistance.
“There are many questions that are difficult to answer,” the Bronsinks wrote in a recent prayer letter. “With limited cell connections to friends and family back in Ukraine, students are visibly anxious; emotions stay close to the surface for many. Thankfully, we have had the opportunity to welcome several students into our home and just be present with them as they process this turmoil.”
Similar stories have been reported from missionaries and ReFrame Ministries staff in Belarus, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and other neighboring countries.
Staff who had been based in Ukraine have all made it to safety. ReFrame staff member Lika (last name omitted for security reasons) is a Ukranian national who made it to Slovakia on Saturday morning after a nine-hour wait at the border.
“Lika and her family stayed with friends for a night and finally arrived in Krakow, Poland. There's an international team there for refugee work, and Lika will be joining it, to minister to Ukrainian refugees. She is already busy coordinating assistance and gospel outreach to them,” said ReFrame’s Russian ministry leader Sergei Sosedkin.
Lika, the Bronsinks, and staff in surrounding regions are continuing to minister to those around them. This includes responding to deep emotional needs that the recent escalation of conflict has brought to the surface.
“In just the past weekend, we have heard countless stories from students describing their former homes, now destroyed. Parents waiting in metro stations. Brothers called up to serve. Siblings trying to cross borders. We are weeping with those who weep during this time,” wrote the Bronsinks.
“Our hearts are broken for our students – not just our Ukrainian students, but also our students from other countries. Our Afghani students recall recent events from the fall. The students from Georgia and Armenia remember invasions and occupation from the past decade. Our Lithuanian colleagues speak of events from 30 years ago, describing bloodshed while fighting for peace.”
It also includes assisting refugees as they arrive in countries such as Hungary. Jeff and Julie Bouman, for example, are Resonate missionaries who are working with partners in the Hungarian Reformed Church to respond to the massive influx of Ukrainian refugees.
Resonate missionaries George and Sarah deVuyst have worked in Ukraine for 25 years. While they are now in North America, they remain in close contact with friends and partners across the country and region.
“I am in daily contact with my Ukrainian partners and especially our team that works in healing and reconciliation,” George deVuyst said. “We’ve been working since Ukraine was first invaded by Russia in 2014 to introduce interethnic healing and reconciliation all over Ukraine, but especially along the line of contact in Eastern Ukraine. We pray that this continues to bear fruit even in these very dark times. We look forward to picking up this work in Ukraine as soon as we can safely do so.”
Responding to Humanitarian Needs
The situation in Ukraine and the surrounding area is constantly evolving and the data around the number of people who are in need is difficult to quantify.
“As of this morning, the United Nations says that 850,144 refugees have left Ukraine for surrounding countries,” said deVuyst. “There are still huge numbers of people waiting on the border. In addition, many people have fled their homes and are living as internally displaced people within Ukraine. The numbers of internally displaced are unknown, but certainly in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.”
The needs for these vulnerable people to receive food, water, shelter, and health care are already great and will continue to increase. World Renew is gearing up to respond.
“We continue to gather information and talk with our partners to determine how we can best answer God’s call to extend love and hope to people left vulnerable by the conflict,” said Jacqueline Koster, acting director of International Disaster Response for World Renew.
“With fellow members in the Integral Alliance and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank we are supporting efforts to provide water, food, shelter, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to refugees. The needs are increasing by the hour.”
Donations are being accepted to support this work. Please use the links below or mark your checks with the fund code 210236: IDR-Ukraine Conflict. (A portion of funds raised will be set aside for CRCNA ministries to provide long-term trauma counseling and other assistance in the future).
World Renew Canadian mailing address:
PO Box 5070 STN LCD 1
Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8
World Renew US Mailing address:
1700 28th St SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508