The amount of love and support the world has been showing Ukraine through their adversity has been inspiring. Although there are currently no GEM workers serving within Ukraine, labourers in the surrounding countries have been working tirelessly with the waves of incoming refugees. Many of the GEM workers who have stepped up are doing so alongside partnering agencies, showcasing a beautiful display of unity within the global church. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the work being done and how your support is making an impact.
Right along the border of Ukraine is the unassuming country of Moldova – a small, poor country welcoming refugees with open arms. One unique advantage this country has from other bordering countries is its language; “[Very few] border countries have a population that speaks their heart language – Russian,” Dwight Poggemiller mentions. “[Ukrainians have been] able to communicate immediately, enter into counselling, compassion, and be cared for in their heart language. Also, [Christians have been] able to enter into spiritual conversations with these folks.”
Interestingly, the countries seeing the most action have some of Europe’s highest number of believers. “Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine had some of the highest percentages of evangelical Christians before this conflict [ranging from 3-5% of the population],” Dwight states. “There’s not only a significant number of believers there, but they’re also very united… and it’s been a great example of the body of Christ working in unity and reaching out with Christ’s love.”
GEM workers, teaming up with partner agencies, have been able to work together to meet the needs of refugees entering Moldova. “The Lord’s used this to be a great reconnect with old partners and new connection with new partners, and through that we’ve been able to have a significant impact. We’ve touched probably 30 different locations, churches, and refugee centers with [different kinds] of aid,” Dwight revels.
Poland, with almost 3 million Ukrainians either passing through or settling, has had a huge influx of refugees looking for safety. There we witness the benefits of believers working together, both inside and outside of GEM. Phil Gibson explains, “I am connecting with ministry partners in Poland who are currently housing numerous refugees from Poland. We have set up an agency agreement with them so that we can send financial assistance.” GEM workers are partnering with organizations who are already established in order to multiply their impact and meet the needs of people who are hurting.
Kevin Weppler, a worker in Romania has been consistently finding ways to step up to the ongoing need. “Our national partners here in the south have been returning with van-loads of mothers and children trying to get away from the border.” Ashley, an intern working alongside the Wepplers pleads, “Right now, the need is food. Every open church and home is seeking to provide warm meals during their stay, and non-perishable items to send them onwards with.”
Further from Ukraine, but still seeing the effects of the war, is MaryLynn Parnell serving in Spain. “Girona is a transit place and a settling place, so there are people who are settling here,” she notes. “As we know of families that are settling, we find out their needs. People will then drop off donations for [refugee] families that they connected with, who will then come [to this central meeting spot] and pick them up.”
The impact of your financial donations supporting GEM’s initiative have been noticed. “Funds that have been raised are responding to those first needs… like luggage, feminine products, or things that you can’t always readily get right away… [Refuges will] get housing, and clothing will be donated, but if they need anything outside of that, we’re just really excited to be able to help,” MaryLynn explains.
The people of Ukraine who have fled, now in the range of over 5 million people, depend on the compassion of strangers. This has become an amazing opportunity for the church to step up and show Christ’s love to those desperate for hope.
Lord, we pray for the displaced – those who have had to move without any preparation, that they would find a place that would allow them to feel safe. We pray you would surround them with believers who would speak life and hope to them and give them companionship during this dark season. And lastly, we pray that you would keep our hearts filled with your love, even while we might not agree with what’s happening. Amen.