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Bearing One Another’s Burdens — Ukraine

News

Bearing One Another’s Burdens — Ukraine

By March 2, 2022August 17th, 2022No Comments
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Like you, our hearts at Serge are heavy with the news and images of war. Here are two ways to put your thoughts into Kingdom action:

PRAY — We know that God moves when His people pray:

👉 Read updates from the field and prayer requests from Serge missionaries serving refugees on-the-ground 

👉  See our prayer guide to plead for mercy and for His Kingdom Come in the midst of so much turmoil and suffering

GIVE — Many have asked how to give financial aid for Ukraine:

👉  Serge’s Europe Refugee Crisis Fund is making it possible for missionaries on the ground to respond to the needs around them

👉  Other Christ-centered organizations responding on the ground

Let us bring our heavy hearts to our Heavenly Father and cry out for the people of Ukraine:

  • Pray for mercy for the country of Ukraine. Pray for wisdom for and protection of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine. Pray for both military and civilian Ukrainians, who are fighting bitterly to protect their homes, cities, and country. Pray that casualties on both sides would be few.
  • Pray that the unity and love which supersedes politics and war, especially between God’s children in both countries, would be evident to everyone involved in the conflict. Pray that this conflict between world leaders would not spill over into families.
  • Pray for the various world leaders involved in diplomacy over Ukraine. Pray for a world in which political disagreements don’t lead to hatred or violence.
  • Pray for the protection of Ukrainian pastors and leaders intensely burdened for their congregations. Ask the Lord to strengthen their faith and fill them with hope, remembering that He is Emmanuel, and give them the courage and wisdom to engage with what is happening wherever they are right now.
  • Pray for Ukrainian missionaries abroad — for peace as they worry about their families and friends. In the past few years, the Ukrainian church has become passionate about sending missionaries to reach the lost. Pray that this conflict would not disrupt these ministries.
  • Pray that God would redeem this situation by drawing many people to Himself. Pray that missionaries and other believers will have lots of opportunities to explain to their neighbors and friends the reason for the hope within them, even in this time of trial. Pray that even in darkness, the gospel would go forward. Pray that Ukrainians and Russians would trust what is not changeable and hope in what cannot be lost.
  • Pray that the Lord would protect, comfort, and provide for the frightened women, children, and elderly Ukrainian refugees. They are fleeing for their lives, many with no destination other than “away from the fighting.” Pray they would reach a safe destination and a generous welcome. Let Your church arise to serve, comfort, and encourage. Pray for their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers who are staying behind to fight.
  • Pray for the people whose cities are being flooded with foreigners. Pray for wisdom and endurance for those serving and receiving these refugees who themselves are weary and traumatized. Pray for many volunteers and plenty of provisions.
  • Pray for the thousands of Russian civilians protesting the war and being arrested, for those who have fled their country and those being prohibited from leaving, and for the many Russian soldiers surrendering their arms and sabotaging their own weaponry. Pray for their safety from punishment, and for their hearts full of anguish as they find themselves in a horrifying catch-22.

From the Field – Updates and Prayer Requests

As the war in Ukraine drags on, Serge’s teams in Central Europe are shifting focus from immediate relief to longer-term support for refugees. This will be our last update on this page, but we will continue to write about their ministry and impact in future blogs and prayer posts. Thank you for walking with Serge.

Summer 2022 Update:

Just 500 miles from the Ukrainian border, Serge missionaries in Prague have been working since February to care for and comfort the waves of refugees that poured through Poland to reach Czechia.
Through their partnership with local hostels and landlords, missionaries helped house more than 1,000 refugees providing more than 7,000 free nights of accommodations.
Although the flow of refugees has slowed, still coming are those that are leaving Ukraine after months of hanging on to their home communities. And others are second-time refugees, people who returned home only to discover the fighting too intense to stay. They join the estimated 380,000 refugees who are now making a home in Czechia, with more than 83,000 registered in Prague as new residents in the city.
So our missionaries are digging into long-term solutions. They are working to find permanent housing for refugees who have chosen to stay in Prague and help them get sorted in their new life.
  • Believers in Prague are renovating a school for Ukrainian children to continue their education this fall.
  • One church is sharing their church building with a Ukrainian pastor and his congregation to worship on Sundays; another church is hosting a Ukrainian junior high school.
  • Some refugees have successfully returned to western Ukraine and are welcoming refugees themselves – fellow Ukrainians who don’t have the resources to leave the country but can’t stay in the east.
  • Members of the churches in Prague recently gathered food, clothes, and basic necessities and drove the supplies to a church in southwestern Ukraine to give immediate help but also to explore continuing ministry with Ukrainian pastors.


 

Update from the field (4/08/22): 

Prague:
Meet some of our new friends – two sisters-in-law from Ukraine, each of whom has a teenage child (names withheld).  The husbands (who are brothers) are back in Ukraine, actively fighting against the Russian invasion.  
We first met them in the hostel three weeks ago, where they had come seeking refuge and free accommodation.  During one of our weekly community dinners, when we bring food that our church has prepared, we got to meet these four lovely people.  As all of us work through broken English, Russian, and Ukrainian, we developed a sweet friendship with this family in particular.  Our kids have enjoyed spending time with these amazing refugee teens.  (The hostels continue to provide beds to 150-200 people per night for free, thanks to the amazing generosity from the Refugee Relief Fund).  We prayed for God’s provision for them, and many others joined the search for longer-term housing so they could move out of the hostel.

Moving to longer-term support – Through some contacts here, we were able to secure a flat in a building with other refugees, and the building owner offered to delay his renovations in order to provide free housing for a year.  The flat needed quite a bit of work, cleaning, and furnishing – so a team of about 15 people from Faith, DoSlova (our daughter church), and others helped get it ready for them over the last several days.

The Refugee Relief Fund also helped provide for some of their furniture, supplies, and groceries to stock their kitchen.  And last night we were able to welcome them into their new (temporary) home with a meal, prepared by none other than our Ukrainian family at our house!  The mom staying with us made traditional borscht and varenyky (dumplings) to bring to these fellow refugees.  (And all of these refugees in this story – and more – visited church last Sunday, which was an incredible sight!).

 


Update from the field (3/25/22): 
Prague:

Olesia is a Ukrainian refugee volunteering with Serge’s network of hostels. After fleeing with her three children she didn’t want to “waste her time” as a displaced person, so she started volunteering with the program at the hostel. She and other believers have started teaching English, and helping children with Bible study, storytelling, crafts, and games. She is also caring for her own three children as they struggle and adjust to life in Prague.

Her husband, a pastor, is still in western Ukraine. He helped his family to the border and then returned home to where his own church is sheltering refugees. They are shuttling supplies to cities with more intense fighting and bringing refugees back to western Ukraine on his return trip.

Here is a short interview with Olesia on what she is doing and how we can pray for her and her country:

Update from the field (3/18/22):

Prayer update from a Serge worker serving refugees:

“About 10,000 Ukrainians are arriving here each day. It takes 100 volunteers every hour to operate the arrivals and further logistics and that is just the main station. It is becoming clear that our city is quickly approaching the breaking point if it is not there already. Although there is an amazing – truly amazing – front line, there is not enough continuing support for all those coming through. When we asked people at the arrival center who we could help they were too overwhelmed to even answer. It was quite chaotic.”“What we do know is that God brings order out of the chaos. This is the wisdom that we need. As we see the brokenness, as we see the chaos, we need the vision and the wisdom to know how not to just be reactive, but how to respond in a sustainable way. This is wisdom that cannot come from us.”

Pray: that we would know how to help and to serve them in this time of crisis. That God would grant us favor with them and remove any barriers, language, or stress that might hinder us from seeking good for the Ukrainians. Satan is working overtime in trying to create chaos and protection from that would be appreciated.

Pray: for the financial and human resources that we need to serve the Ukrainians who have come to our city. Prayer for more Ukrainian/Russian speakers to be able to consistently offer help.

Pray boldly that His glory would shine to all those who find themselves in a very dark and lonely place.

Pray: for strength for us as well as for all those across the city and Europe who are pouring their hearts and all their energy into serving hopeless people right now. That we would all find time to rest well and ultimately find that rest in Him, trusting Him and reminding ourselves that He is the One who has all of this in His hands.


Update from the field (3/14/22):

Prague: About an hour before church started yesterday, I got a call from a missionary with another organization in Budapest. She asked if I knew a place where a Ukrainian family of 11 (mom, dad, and 9 kids) – connected to their mission – could stay for one night in Prague. Their car had broken down on their way to Germany and they were pretty desperate. These kinds of calls happen almost daily now. Fortunately, there was space for one night for this family in one of the Prague hostels, but not every situation has an easy solution. So far – thanks to the refugee fund – the hostels have been able to house approximately 450 refugees in the last 2 ½ weeks. Some stay for one night, others for a week or more – until they can find more permanent housing.

The immediate, crisis-level needs of housing and supplies are still there – but there seems to be a rapid movement towards more long-term concerns. We’re taking our refugee family of 4 (they’ve been with us for a week-and-a-half) to a neighborhood café tomorrow, which is hosting a “meet-and-greet coffee” for all the Ukrainians who have recently moved into the area. As the hostels have shown, refugees need to keep meeting each other and socializing together. And we just heard today that our neighborhood preschool is going to open a Ukrainian preschool with Ukrainian teachers.

Cluj, Romania:

One of our volunteers met a refugee family from Kyiv at the Hungarian border with Romania who needed some help with translation. The family left the city five days ago when it was still possible. Now it isn’t anymore. It was dangerous for them to stay at home, even in their basement, not just because of the bombing, but because of those who are taking advantage of the situation. The children’s father is in Odessa, he might even be fighting now. On their way here, in a city still in Ukraine, they met a woman in the marketplace who offered to host them for one night. The next day, just one day after she met the family, the woman asked them to take her two children with them. Even entrusting your children to nice-looking strangers is better than trying to survive a war. After they take the children to Prague to their aunt, they don’t know what’s next.


 

Update from the field (3/12/22)

Weekend video update from Serge workers in Prague:


 

Update from the field (3/9/22)

Vienna:

Right now we seem to be just in front of the surging wave that’s about to hit. I’ve been in touch with missionaries/pastors from Ukraine who are trying to find accommodation for their church members. Just that demographic alone is HUGE. We are connected with churches in Vienna.

At this moment I am going back and forth as the contact person between the different groups seeking to prepare for helping the most people we can. Right now Matthew 25:35-40 is becoming very real and yet also daunting. I’m praying the church can rise to the challenge, myself included.

Cluj, Romania:

By midnight on March 6, 261,445 Ukrainian citizens had entered Romania according to border police. Of these, 182,312 have already left the country en route to places further west.

“Anyone over the age of 50 seems especially troubled by what is happening in Ukraine (although everyone is upset and outraged, as we see worldwide). I was talking to our 80+-year-old landlady last night and she told me how the media images brought back memories of WWII when she was a young child and saw a river clogged with bodies in a nearby village. It was so sad to see this old woman who has lived through WWII and the communist years here in Romania so frightened by what is happening over the border. “We must pray,” she said repeatedly – so please keep doing so, dear friends.”

Prague:

“Reality is setting in. You can see the shock and sadness on the faces of the refugees. One woman tried to happily tell me ‘normal things’ about her brothers back in Ukraine but couldn’t finish as the tears overcame her. Some who used to talk about going back in a few days or weeks are now asking about jobs and long-term housing.”


 

Update from the field (3/7/22)

Prague:

“Local believers connected to Serge are housing hundreds of people through a network of hostels. They are operating at cost, so people are collecting money to help them keep the lights on and the building running. They are the best first place for people to arrive since they are very good at getting people fed and in beds. About $22 per person covers the cost of food and basic supplies.

We also just started letting a Russian-speaking church here, pastored by a man from Ukraine, use our kid’s rooms Monday-Friday, for refugee moms to leave their kids for childcare while they run errands and file paperwork.

Churches in Prague are…

  • working with a Christian nonprofit to welcome and help refugees settle in Prague, including accessing government services
  • preparing and outfitting several flats in a building that’s been designated to house refugees for at least a year
  • collecting and delivering donations of food and toiletries
  • providing housing for groups for whom the hostels aren’t a good option, e.g. those with elderly people or young children.

Current estimates are that 100,000 refugees have entered the Czech Republic since the beginning of the invasion. The government estimates that around 12,000 are in Prague.

“Two Ukrainian families stayed with us over the weekend. We were one stop on their way from Odessa to Berlin, where they have family. ”

Our guests had been driving for four days with the 3 kids, 2 cats, and a Corgi puppy. They had stopped in Moldova, Romania, and Hungary. Both dads are in the military, and all boys seemed very happy to have a dad and two older brothers at our house to roughhouse with. The kids came out of the car talking a mile a minute. Unfortunately Russian (more widely spoken in their area) is not very much like Czech or English. Fortunately, we have a lot of Lego and Nerf guns at our house, and those, as it turns out, transcend culture.”

“Our guests were nothing like the mental picture many Westerners get when we hear the word “refugee.” They arrived in their own car, communicated with us over WhatsApp and Google Translate, and had everything they needed except a place to sleep. They asked us to make an appointment with a doctor to investigate a mild cough. (Serge’s Dr. Joel Hylton stepped in!) The moms were tired. The kids missed their daddies.”

“Our 12-year-old was able to verbalize this, and understood the implication: “They don’t seem like people running from a war. ‘They seem… like us. But all the people in places we imagine there being war—those people are like us, too’.”

Obviously my hope in this crisis is that many people will experience God’s kindness and mercy through the hands of his people. But I also hope that for my kids, for myself, and for all of us, helping during this season will strip away some of our prejudices, some of our comforts, some of our assumptions. I hope we will emerge more eager to reach out at all times to serve those created in God’s image.”


 

Update from the field (3/4/22)

Prague:

“Our family welcomed a family of four last night into our home – a grandmother, mom, and her two little kids. They were completely exhausted when they arrived, having been delayed at the border for days, and so we’re not exactly sure of their situation or who they left behind.
It’s amazing to see the resilience and patience of these refugees, and we are so grateful to be able to simply offer a bed or a warm meal.”

The Czech Foreign Ministry estimates about 30,000 Ukrainians have come through its borders with about 5,000 more coming each day. The government has declared a state of emergency to help deal with the refugees coming in.

Faith Community Church, where Serge missionaries serve, organized hot meals at an area hostel for refugees who arrived last week. The volunteer “Lasagna Team” is planning regular visits.


 

Update from the field (3/2/22)

Prague:

Ukrainian flags are everywhere right now — private homes, government buildings, and even on the trams. Our two hostels (with 150 beds) are packed with refugees now but can still take more. We are mostly seeing women and children who left behind their husbands and fathers to fight. We are only 800 miles from the Ukrainian border, and many Ukrainians have family here. Some refugees have already come and gone on their way to other places.

And some have just arrived with horrible tales of their travels — walking across borders, waiting for trains only to have to wait for the next one because of the crowds, births, and deaths along the way, etc. I can only imagine what we will hear in the coming weeks. We are thankful we can offer a safe place, showers, food, toiletries, toys, etc. It is amazing to see a network of people rising up to take action.

Give to those providing direct relief for Ukrainian refugees in crisis:

Serge
There is a humanitarian crisis with an anticipated 4 million refugees. Ukrainians are fleeing violence and thousands of Russians trying to leave their country. Serge missionaries in neighboring countries have partnered with churches and small local relief organizations to provide shelter, food, and basic life necessities. Click here to give direct relief and practically demonstrate the love of Christ. 

Other Christ-Centered Organizations Responding On the Ground:

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