I had just arrived in the country a few weeks before. After evacuating from Kyiv at the end of January, I had been living in Hungary until I received the request from my ABWE teammates in Bulgaria to come alongside them in their ministry.
“We have thousands of Ukrainians who have arrived in Varna and are staying in hotels here. Others are just passing through and need a place to stay for the night, so we have renovated a space next to our church that can sleep up to 17 people. One of the only problems is—we don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, and we have very few people available to help us. But you speak Russian and Ukrainian!”
I may not be capital F fluent, but I could definitely be helpful, so, after consulting with my field leadership, I purchased plane tickets to Varna, Bulgaria.
“One of the Ukrainian ladies is celebrating her 21st birthday today, so we need to stop and buy her some chocolate on the way,” my teammate Angela informed me after I arrived. We swung by the little store down the hill from her house and then continued on our way to the church. Olena, Inna, Karina, and her little daughter Maria were waiting outside with their luggage.
I introduced myself, and once they were ready, we loaded their luggage into the van and were off to the bus station.
Arriving a little early, we decided to walk over to the mall next door. The ladies wanted to buy SIM cards for their cell phones so they could make calls and texts outside Ukraine. They had heard that Bulgaria had started a program to give them out for free to Ukrainians. We stopped at the first phone store we walked by, but they were all out until Monday, so we decided to try a second place.
Olena stepped up to the desk and consulted with the sales representative. “They cost 8 dollars here,” she reported over her shoulder to the rest of the group. Karina decided to purchase one, but Olena and Inna reticently admitted that they didn’t have any money.
“We’ll take care of your SIM cards,” I announced. “No, no, no, you don’t have to do that!” they both hastened to say, but I’d already slapped down my card as I reassured them that we had friends who cared about them and had given money so that we might meet needs like this. That was the best 16 dollars I spent all month. I watched their faces light up after they inserted the SIM cards in their phones and were no longer dependent on Wi-Fi to connect with their loved ones.
“Has anyone seen Karina and Maria?” We looked around, noticing our small group of ladies was incomplete. After locating them in a little flower shop—Karina is a florist and was getting ideas for weddings—we posed for a picture together back at the bus station.
As we said our goodbyes, Olena crushed me in her arms with tears running down her cheeks. “Thank you. Thank you so much!” she repeated over and over again. We exchanged numbers and waved goodbye.
“This is the best birthday I ever had,” Olena said to Angela, “because I met you!”
Thank you to all those who have given to the Ukraine Crisis Fund and who pray for our ministry in order that we may give a “cup of cold water” in Jesus’ name.
Editor’s Note: The names of Ukrainians have been changed to protect their privacy.
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.