Ukraine (MNN) — Is the cease-fire holding in Ukraine? Is the war really over?
Not exactly. Slavic Gospel Association Vice President of Ministry Operations Eric Mock says, “I think it has died down in the sense that there is not an ongoing military assault and battle going on that is pushing on a particular front. However, it’s very clear that the conflict is still happening.” Specifically, the United Nations says 331 people have died since the truce went into effect.
According to the UN report, rebel forces reportedly found mass graves on territory formerly controlled by the army. It appears that indiscriminate shelling from both pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military caused most of the civilian deaths.
This means it’s still not safe. “When the truce first started, there was even a flow of people returning to the cities,” says Mock. “What I heard was that a matter of days later, there was that same flow of traffic leaving those cities once again, recognizing that the conflict was continuing in those areas.”
Where are the refugees going? To the Church. “Refugees are leaving their villages and have nowhere to sleep. [Churches are] laying mattresses all over sanctuary floors so people have somewhere to sleep. Sunday school rooms are being turned into apartments. It’s just very difficult for people.”
In the worst-hit areas, he explains, the disruption is significant. “Some estimate as much as 80% of the believers in churches have fled the area, so we’re trying to provide for their food as well as a place to lay their head. SGA has been responding to equip the churches to do the work of the ministry.”
That’s why SGA created the Crisis Evangelism Fund: to help them seize this opportunity to reach their hurting people with the Gospel and meet their deep physical needs. Mock says, “We were able to build on the existing network that we actually have of relationships. We support over 120 indigenous missionary pastors, so providing aid was actually quite natural because we were able to work through the churches that we already had a relationship with.”
Refugees fleeing from the violence have flooded into other parts of Ukraine. Individuals and families who have remained behind are facing enormous economic challenges. With winter fast approaching, the need is even more urgent. “Many of these people left–literally, children–not even with socks on their feet,” explains Mock. “Part of what we’re doing through the Crisis Evangelism Fund now is helping some of these families with winter clothing.”
As the humanitarian crisis has reached a peak, the question is how to get aid to those who need it. Mock says because of their church network already in place, they could mobilize very quickly. “The work of SGA is to bring resources into Kiev, where either by vans, cars, or by any other practical means, they have been almost like a bucket brigade going from region to region and getting humanitarian aid into these regions.”
Most important of all, distressed families and individuals will hear a different message. Mock says, “In the midst of this conflict, there is now a people that are crying out saying, ‘Tell me more about why I exist. Who am I? What is my purpose in life?’ They’re now asking deep searching questions in the middle of these trials. These trials have opened the door for the Gospel.”
In the face of an uncertain future and ongoing need, Mock says church leaders are asking you to pray about two things: “Pray for a tremendous revival among the people of Eastern Ukraine, a tremendous revival in Russia and Ukraine. Secondly, pray that God continues to lead people to give to the Crisis Evangelism Fund so that we’re able to help people as they enter into winter.”
And SGA is asking you to give. $15 can help provide a food pack, which contain items such as flour, cooking oil, pasta, and other staples, plus Christian literature. With winter coming, a gift of $56 will help provide warm clothing such as warm socks, scarves, sweaters, and jackets to the most needy individuals and families–many of whom fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
Larger gifts can provide other items like mattresses, pillows, and bed linens, plus Bibles and evangelistic literature. And as always, the Gospel is central to our ministry efforts.