On February 24, 2022, one day after the magazine was published, Russia invaded Ukraine. The war sent a tidal wave of refugees flowing into neighboring countries and created enormous humanitarian needs within Ukraine. In response to this wave, Baptist Mid-Missions has seen a flood of sacrificial generosity for World Relief Ukraine. Your compassionate gifts are exemplifying the spring issue’s theme: Hope Comes When We Help.
On that February day, Slovakia missionaries Don and LeAnne Waite followed the news of Russia’s invasion with special interest. The Waites serve in the city of Kezmarok, about 90 miles from the Ukraine border. In recent years, this hardworking couple has seen many young singles and families receive Christ. Young and old believers alike have been so eager to grow spiritually that the Waites started a Bible institute at their church.
When BMM asked Don and LeAnne if they could coordinate the use of World Relief funds for Ukrainian refugees, they sprang into action, and their church members also rushed to help. Soon, the church’s tables were stacked with pillows, blankets, space heaters, diapers, hygiene items, and food. A Florida church contacted the Waites about church members whose family had fled from Kyiv to Slovakia. The Waites found housing for the family, and the Kezmarok church brought them food and hygiene items. They even provided a cake to make a special day for three of the family members who had birthdays the same week, including the father who turned 50. The family’s 14-year-old son initially struggled with his family’s upheaval. But the care he received from the Waites’ church calmed him with tangible evidence of God’s protection of his future.
Then came a request from one of the Waites’ supporting churches. The pastor’s wife is from Poland, and her parents’ 30-member church in Poland took in more than 50 Ukrainian refugees from Mariupol. Could Don and LeAnne help? Since early March, the Waites and several church members have made numerous eight-hour round trips into Poland with vanloads of supplies. World Relief funds allowed the Waites to equip the church’s apartments with additional refrigerators, stoves, bunk beds, and mattresses as well as a steady stream of food.
The assistance has often brought the Ukrainian families to tears in gratitude. Many escaped their country with only the clothes on their backs, and some didn’t have adequate shoes. When the Waites spread out pairs of new children’s and adult’s shoes, a Ukrainian mother of 11 was so thankful that she held her pair and stroked them as she would a kitten. The father of a newly arrived family nearly broke down when he saw a pair reserved for his son. Each day the father had been giving his son his own shoes to wear to school, and in the evening the son would return them. The father said gratefully, “Now he can have his own shoes.”
Our missionaries in countries bordering Ukraine know that God has placed them there “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). They juggle already-full ministry schedules with the refugee assistance that Christ’s compassion compels us to do. Adding to their ministries among the Roma people, BMM’s Romania team of Luke and Kim Warner and Nicki Carr transported refugees from the Ukrainian border. The other team members, Dave and Ruth Kimmel, coordinated efforts from the US during their furlough. In partnership with a Romanian pastor, the onsite BMM missionaries work with Romanian churches to fill vanloads of supplies that the pastor takes across the border into Ukraine.
The relief ministry has become a team effort. The Waites can purchase some items unavailable in Romania. Don and LeAnne and the Romania team are partnering with a Ukrainian missionary couple to distribute items to the couple’s church in Ukraine and into areas of greater need.
In early April, World Relief funds finally made it directly into Ukraine. A Bibles International couple worked tirelessly to wire funds to a pastor they know in Ukraine. This pastor is putting the funds to work to help with immediate medical needs, supplies to get refugees to safety, food, clothes, fuel, and building repairs.
We cannot thank our donors enough for their response in this crisis. Your gifts are keeping refugees alive through food and shelter, but they are also caring for their souls through Ukrainian and Russian Bibles. They have cared for their spirits through the stuffed animals purchased for refugee children. Words cannot describe the joy this brought to these traumatized children.
Your gifts continue to meet the Ukrainians’ ongoing needs. We do not know how long the crisis will last, but as long as God provides World Relief funds, we will put them into the hands of those who can provide compassionate care for such a time as this.
Imagine what God could do through laser-focused prayers lifted by an army of praying warriors among our supporting churches.
Short-term ministry is not only an opportunity to explore your calling to ministry, but it's also a time for growth.