The Kingdom of Heaven has no earthly boundaries, and our focus must remain on bringing the Gospel to a lost and hurting world.
We recently receive the following testimonies from Russian church volunteers who have cared for Ukrainian refugees in a community just over the Ukraine border. Peter M., who oversees an SGA-supported network of churches wanted us to know what life is like for believers in Russia as the war in Ukraine continues.
“Now we are going through very hard times for the churches of Russia and Ukraine,” he shared with us. “Once we were very close, and now we are going through times of temptations . . . We understand that as Christians we are called to bring love to where there is need, trouble and despair. We would like to share with you letters which were written by people who served to refugees at a temporary settlement near [a Russian city].”
As you can see below, the trip greatly impacted the Christians who volunteered. “I saw a church that does exactly what it is called to do,” said one team member. “It loves people. And you can’t imitate this love. It can only be born in a Christian heart.”
We pray the following stories and pictures Peter sent will encourage you today, as you see the body of Christ in action. Praise God!
*Editor’s Note: The following account contains very disturbing circumstances.
It was so hard not to cry out loud . . .
Not long ago, several teams from our church were in in a temporary accommodation center for refugees. Most of the volunteers currently working there are Christians from different churches. This work is very important. They do thousands of different tasks: volunteers help to carry things, take care of people, feed people, buy tickets, clothes, shoes, and other items for them, support physically. Also, they try to provide spiritual assistance, listen, support, pray together, and say kind words.
When we got there, it was so hard not to cry out loud by looking at these people. So much grief, despair, and pain . . . People left without anything, sometimes lost contact with their loved ones and relatives. It’s very scary . . . Therefore, we understand that the place of Christians is where the need is to bring at least a little light, hope, love. And people feel and see it; they see that God has not forgotten them.
My own eyes have seen . . .
I understand that before sharing some opinion about current situation it is better to go to refugee camp and talk to those people. These people spent two months in basements. There was no heating, no light. They were constantly shelled and they were kind of a target . . . they were left to perish and now cling to every opportunity to save their lives.
They stay in the refugee camp until there will be enough people to gather on the train and go further.
We were shocked by what we have seen. Things that we take for granted in our daily lives are huge blessings from their point of view. A place to lie down and sleep, an opportunity to take a shower and wash clothes, eat normal food, a chance to speak out, and share what is on someone`s heart. All these things are tremendous blessings from God.
People in the temporary accommodation center live in a common room. Adults, children, the elderly, cats, dogs — all of them live in the same room. There are no separate rooms, screens, in other words — no private space at all.
They lost all savings. Most of them have no homes to return to. Some of them even have no personal belongings. This is dreadful reality. Old people lost everything at the end of their lives. Many of them are alone now. Some children were left without parents. Now they have only grandparents and despite the fact that they are still very young, they have already seen a lot of deaths.
I saw believers coming as volunteers from different parts of Russia. They bring necessities and try to meet all needs. Volunteers provide feeding during the night too.
I have never seen so many people with passionate hearts, who are ready to sacrifice absolutely everything. I have never seen so much love and compassion in one place. I have never seen so many grateful people.
Grateful hearts for every little thing . . .
I would love to volunteer there again. Now I am tired and sick, but my heart rejoices and praise God for all work that done there. I want pray for everyone who is in the refugee camp now.
I am surprised that I was able to work all the shifts in the accommodation center, because I thought that my health would not cope. The Lord shows miracles when you take a step of faith. I`m sure I needed this trip to learn how to love more.
For I was in need of food, and you gave it to me: I was in need of drink, and you gave it to me: I was wandering, and you took me in; I had no clothing, and you gave it to me: when I was ill, or in prison, you came to me. Then will the upright make answer to him, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food, and give it to you? Or in need of drink, and give it to you? And when did we see you wandering, and take you in? Or without clothing, and give it to you? And when did we see you ill, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:35-40).
I prayed a lot before the trip.
I wanted to be a blessing for our team and for refugees. I asked God to renew my faith, and I wanted to learn more about Him. I was very worried about my physical condition. Two years passed after I had chemotherapy but my health was not completely restored. Also, after treatment I`ve got pain in my legs. I knew this trip will not be easy, but I asked God for a miracle and strength. And our wonderful God gave me even more and he answered all my prayers.
I’ll start with the physical condition. We arrived at the temporary accommodation center, and we had to work there in three shifts. Two of that were night shifts for 10 hours, and the last shift was evening just a few hours after the second night. That is, in three days it turned out to sleep a total of eight or nine hours. During the first night shift several buses came bringing a lot of people. These 10 hours I spent completely on my feet. By the end of the shift, the legs were very tired, BUT . . . they did not hurt! I had a feeling God gave me a new body to be able to serve there. I easily endured the lack of sleep and physical stress. It was a great miracle for me. It was even more than I asked for. The Lord is amazing!
Our team was divided into ministries. Some people went to the dining room to feed people; some were helping to find clothes for refugees. Yulia and I wanted to be closer to people and decided to serve in the living room. People are brought by workers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. They give each person a set of disposable bedding, and people spend from one to three days in a room for 500 people from one to three days. Some of them come with families. They are quite independent and can take care of each other and their elders. They only need to be shown where the dining room and shower are. But we began to see those who are alone, and have none to take care of them.
MES brought an old lady who could hardly walk. She was placed on a cot. They placed some cots around her so people around could breathe, because it was almost impossible to be near her because of the smell. She lied in semi-consciousness and groaned.
Washing old sick people who didn’t change their clothes for two months and went to the toilet without taking off their pants is something I wasn’t ready for, at all . . . But I knew we came to take care of people.
When Yulia and I washed the second old lady, while undressing her, I ran out the door three times to grab some fresh air. I won’t go into too much detail. I’d rather say that by the end of the third day I was able to keep working in this ministry.
Just try to imagine a formless, faceless, groaning, lonely, careless human being. And at this moment you hardly think that she is a living soul. You just feel pity for this person. But while you bathe her, a miracle happens. Her dull eyes begin to glow. And it turns out that they are blue. And here she is so clean and nice smelling person. You help her dress up and in front of you is a HUMAN in whom the desire to live has woken up. We tell her how beautiful she is and take her to do her hair. While she is getting her hair cut, she starts to sing. It’s much better than moaning. She asks: “Dear girls, where did you come from?” I say: ‘God saw your bad condition and sent us to take care of you.’ And she comprehends: ‘Did He really know that I was broken apart??? It was absolutely horrible…’
May the Lord take care of all these lonely elderly people wherever the government takes them to live. And may God send people who can take care of them!
The refugees are watching us. After they were brought to the TAP and placed there, they communicate most of the time only with believers. And very often they ask what is wrong with us, they say that we are made of some other material. And that our love is special. It is not like we are forced to do this work, but like unlimited love is pouring out of us. And this is such a great opportunity to say that we are only instruments in God`s hand, and we are just trying to show them His love.
When I had breaks, I went to the dining room or humanitarian aid room, where people from our team served. And just stood there enjoying God`s working through them.
The Ministry of Emergency Situations feeds people only during the day. If the buses come at night, there is no food. Therefore, at night the dining room turns into a realm of volunteers. They lay out tasty treats, prepare sandwiches, fruits, pour tea. Volunteers smile and joke. And people start smiling, too. In the dining room, too, a shapeless mass of suffering people become ‘humans.’ They drink tea. Many times, they pour a new one, it seems like they cannot get enough. And they tell how they dreamed about tea, sitting in the cellars. We sit down to talk with them. And we understand that people want to speak out, to share their sufferings. And here in the dining room, as well as in the shower room, the Lord touches hearts of different people and heals wounds through Christians.
The same thing happens in the humanities room. Our girls are circling around the refugees, chirping: “Oh, how slim you are! There are such wonderful branded jeans for you!” This poor woman replies: “Yes, we ate only two tablespoons of porridge for a month. So, I’ve lost weight.” At this time, our volunteer is looking for those same branded jeans. And they actually turn out to be just right for her. And she starts smiling. She’s just had her hair cut. The jeans fit. And as if some wound in her soul was healed.
My biggest response to this trip is that I saw a church that does exactly what it is called to do — it loves people. And you can’t imitate this love. It can only be born in a Christian heart. And the world sees it. The police see it, the workers from the Ministry of Emergency Situations see it, the doctors who work there see it. They see refugees who are replaced by hundreds every two days. I saw a church that does exactly what it is called to do — it loves people. And you can’t imitate this love. It can only be born in a Christian heart. And the world sees it. They leave with gospels, calendars, phones of believers. Lord, continue Your work in them and stop this crazy war, please!
In a time of great uncertainty, God is bringing help, healing, and hope to the people of Ukraine through SGA-supported pastors, churches, a seminary, and SGA-sponsored Compassion Ministry. Be a part of God’s incredible work with your generosity and prayer support.
Your gift of compassion helps struggling people with emergency aid that generally includes Scripture materials, food, medicine, warm clothing, and shoes.