Update From March 1, 2022
My wife and I have partnered with Mihai (a Live Global partner) to plant a church in Chișinău. We have been working together for about 4 years. On Thursday, February 24, Mihai and I drove to the border of Ukraine. We never could have anticipated the long wait until our fellow workers would finally cross the border. There were dozens of taxis with handwritten signs tape to their windows, advertising free rides to Chișinău. Numerous people came to the border, as well, to take as many refugees as possible to safety. There is huge support for the Ukrainian people.
We waited all night until the next day at about 2 p.m. to finally see them. We gave them tons of sandwiches, chips, and drinks, as they hadn’t eaten for almost 24 hours. They were starving! Mihai drove our car back to Chișinău, and I drove the group’s car to give them some rest on the three-hour return trip. That night, eight of us stayed at our apartment. It was like camping, but we were happy just to be safe and together with friends and colleagues.
The next day, one of our partners asked if her dear friend could also stay at our place with her two little toddlers. Her story is like hundreds, if not thousands, of families trying to leave Ukraine. Men from 16-60 years of age were not allowed to leave their country by order of the government. This woman had to kiss her husband goodbye at the border, like thousands of other wives and children. The little family arrived safely on Saturday. Thankfully, they are still able to safely on FaceTime their father daily.
Meanwhile, the Imago Dei church was at capacity, filled with refugees seeking a place to stay for the night. Many were students originally from Nigeria, studying in Odessa, and attending the International Church that our partner pastored. Although our church is not large, our people swung into action, and everyone helped accomodate those in need. As a church, we are still pulling together a strategy to help the constant flow of refugees.
Our partner has another young disciple, who is 17 years old and wanted to stay with us. The young woman arrived Sunday afternoon, right as we were wondering how we could accommodate so many people.
The Lord had everything under control (as usual) and blessed our partners with a house that was given them to use for as long as needed. So, after dinner on Monday, our partners moved out of our apartment and moved to their “new” house along with about 14 African students! They also have another house, which was loaned to them. Currently, something like 25 African students are housed there. Because these students are foreigners, they were allowed to leave Ukraine with the status of “refugee.”
At about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, three African students arrived at our house. They all speak English, as do all the Africans, and are so sweet and thankful. In fact, a couple of hours ago, I spoke with the one woman’s mother, who is in Nigeria, and she wanted to thank us for taking care of her “children.” Her mom told me that the church in Nigeria is praying for this situation, and it was a blessing to sense the bond in Christ, as all over the world people are gathering around the throne.
Last night, I was texting with the Nigerian students, as they passed through border control and were placed on a bus coming to Chișinău. My wife and I didn’t get much sleep last night, and then she had to teach English all day. Thankfully, she is home from the university now and ready to rest a bit before thinking about what to do for dinner.
Yesterday, there were about 25 Muslims sleeping at Imago Dei, as well as other refugees. We are barely keeping our heads above water as the Lord brings needy people our way.
Update From March 3, 2022
On Tuesday, March 1, I went with our ministry partner to a military installation in Chișinău, where a group of refugee Indian medical students from Odessa were being sheltered. A few of these students attended the international church that our partner pastors there, and they were thankful to see their pastor in person and pray with him. The sad story of these students is that they have studied medicine in Odessa for six years and had just two months to complete their studies when the war came and they had to leave. They don’t want to leave this country in hopes that the war will end soon and they can return to Ukraine to complete their studies.
Our church, Imago Dei Baptist Church, has formed a team to help with the different aspects of receiving refugees, among other related activities. The team, under the direction of Pastor Mihai, was able to find an apartment for a refugee mother, N., and her two children (They had to say goodbye to the father at the border because he wasn’t allowed to leave).
Today, March 3, another mother, from the same church in Odessa, is coming to Chișinău with her one month old baby to join the other refugee mother in the apartment. And another mother, with her two children from the same church, will be joining them. So, there will be three moms with five children, all from the same church, living in a one-bedroom apartment. The Ukraine Crisis Fund is covering the cost of the rental and the ongoing costs of food, utilities, etc. for the time being.
Yesterday, March 2, our partner and I moved the first refugee mother and her children to the new apartment and then took them shopping for everything they needed to live there. They needed things like plates, pots and pans, bedding, and food. Our partner was able to use the money from the crisis fund to cover the costs of the groceries. The total expense was about $330 USD, just to give you an idea of what it might cost to do a set up like this.
This week, also had three Nigerian medical students, who evacuated Ukraine, staying with us in our apartment. The one, A., left yesterday for Romania and is at a church in Bucharest, right now. Our partner has been trying to coordinate getting some of the refugees into Germany, and A. is hoping he will also be allowed to enter Germany. The other two students, O. and F., have settled in with our partner at the house he was loaned. They are not sure what to do, whether they should stay or accompany A. to Germany. But they are very grateful for everything the church has done for them, recently.
One of our partner’s disciples, L., also came to stay with us. L. is engaged to a Christian man, who is now in the Czech Republic working to earn enough to get married. She is leaving today to travel by bus to the Czech Republic, where she will stay with friends of his. We are praying that both L. and A. will be allowed to enter their intended destinations. It’s a little bit confusing right now what the respective countries will do the moment they arrive, as things are changing rapidly.
Meanwhile, back at the Imago Dei Baptist Church plant, we are housing a constant flow of refugees every day/night. Most are only staying a night or two, before moving on to other countries that seem more secure than this one at the moment. While they are with us, we look for the opportunity to share the gospel with them. These are some of the benefits of compassion ministries. While we are showing the love of Christ in providing for the urgent and immediate physical needs of the frightened and fleeing people, we are also privileged to share his love with them spiritually and emotionally.
We captured another touching moment at our house the other day when N. gave the phone to her 18-month-old daughter to see and “talk” to her dad, who remains in Ukraine. When N. tried to take the phone back, her daughter cried and would not let her have the phone, while she enjoyed seeing her dad. Obviously, the emotional shock of all of this is beginning to hit the refugees and the toll on the families is huge.
Yesterday, N. received a photo of her parents in Odessa, while we were shopping to supply her new apartment. She just broke down and started sobbing uncontrollably, and I could only wonder how to comfort her, as I don’t speak Russian. Some women in the store came up and began to comfort N. without even knowing what was wrong. People are very sympathetic to what’s happening, right now.
These stories aren’t just our personal experiences—they are being repeated everywhere and are typical of what refugees are experiencing due to this war.
Want to help Ukrainian believers? Partner with churches serving refugees, sharing Christ, and providing basic needs. You can be the hands and feet of Christ to Ukrainians in crisis.