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The Christians came to help me

In war-torn eastern Ukraine, BMS World Mission supporters helped families survive the bitter cold, and introduced people to Jesus

Make no sudden movements. Let one person do the talking. That was the advice about how to behave at military checkpoints in eastern Ukraine. But out comes Pastor Vasyl’s Baptist identity card, and we are immediately waved through. He hands the soldiers some apples, and quietly says, “God bless you.” These are the pastors BMS is supporting on the frontline. They’re helping those caught in the country’s ongoing conflict, and blessing those around them.

BMS supporters have played a crucial part in helping families in Ukraine keep warm over the winter.

The war has been going on for over four years now. Air strikes, tanks and shelling have caused chaos for thousands of innocent civilians. The conflict between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists has stabilised but it’s already caused horrendous damage, killing thousands and displacing 1.6 million people.

And this past winter, it got even worse, as the temperature dropped as low as minus 25C. Towns had gas and electricity shut off and, with factories being destroyed, a lack of jobs means that many people had next to no income. With no money for any form of heating, it’s Christians like you who have enabled people to survive the harsh winter.

People like Maria. I’m slightly nervous on my way to meet her, partly because my translator has just shown me the main road that goes straight to the city of Donetsk, a separatist stronghold in the region only a 30-minute drive away. But Pastor Vasyl is in good spirits. He travels around the grey zone with other pastors, helping those who have lost everything. “The worst thing the Church can do in a situation like this is nothing,” says Pastor Vasyl. “Jesus said ‘I was sick, you visited me. I was hungry, you gave me food.’” And that’s what these pastors are doing for others.

"I lie on my sofa every morning and read the Bible. That's what helps me to live," says Maria. She witnesses to her neighbours too.

Maria is 78 years old, and incredibly welcoming. She used to be an editor in Donetsk, but she left the city to look after her mother before becoming a teacher in a rural village. She has beaten cancer, lost a kidney and had issues with her spine. But she’s survived.

“I had two flying guests, as I call them, land right next to my house,” she tells me. “The missiles destroyed my windows. It was below zero inside the house.” Her voice trembles as tears begin to fall.

With only two habitable rooms in the house, Maria survived the bitter winter using a ceramic heater BMS supporters paid for. “The Christians even cut the wood for my stove and brought me food and clothing,” says Maria.

When Pastor Vasyl first met Maria, he told her the good news of Jesus, and it changed her life. “The Christians were singing a song: ‘Help me, o Lord, to become better through all the trials I’m going through,’” says Maria. “That song helps me get through.”

“She witnesses to her neighbours and she changes them, too,” says Pastor Vasyl. “What we are doing is only the road sign that points them towards God.”

“Today we can give them daily bread,” Vladimir, a fellow pastor adds. “But we hope through this, they can see Jesus.”

BMS supporters raised over £60,000 and helped over 4,000 by giving so generously to our Ukraine winter appeal. But they've also given them the opportunity to hear the gospel. “I would like to say thank you very much,” says Vladimir.  “It’s not only from me. It’s from the people that are there.”

Maria is just one of the 4,000 people BMS supporters have helped.

This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission

BMS World Mission, 20/06/2019
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The charity Dnipro Hope Mission (DHM) works with church partners in Eastern Ukraine - and wants to highlight the different ways people are using their gifts in the war
“Huge initiatives of practical help, prayer… and homecooked pies”
Baptists in Ukraine continue to respond to the war in their country 'with compassion and open hearts', according to the European Baptist Federation (EBF)
The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum calls for coverage, prayer and action for Black and Brown peoples facing racial discrimination amidst the invasion of Ukraine
Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine has been met with widespread condemnation and sorrow, as well as renewed calls for prayer
Baptists in both Ukraine and Russia are fervently praying into the increasingly tense situation on their borders – and Baptists around the world have been encouraged to do likewise.
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