By Aaron Weaver
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel are working to provide relief to Ukrainians. Below are several updates from the week of March 21:
Gennady and Mina Podgaisky — Kyiv, Ukraine (currently in North Carolina)
The Podgaiskys continue to work with their networks to provide friends and neighbors with evacuation information and connecting Ukrainians to resources in the country such as transportation, relocation to safety, shelters and contact information for medical advice and the location of food/shelter.
They are also sending funds contributed by Cooperative Baptists through the CBF Ukraine Relief Fund to trusted ministry partners and individuals in Kyiv, Romania and Spain to provide humanitarian relief. Gennady and Mina are counselors and have been providing around-the-clock emotional support to ministry partners, church council, church members, Bible study members, and other friends and neighbors. Below are several recent updates from the Podgaiskys.
- Spoke and shared updates on our ministries and what is happening in Ukraine at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; CBF of North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C.; Wingate Baptist Church in Wingate, N.C.; and Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Ky.
- Phone and podcast interviews with media outlets
- Provided financial support to individuals and ministries in Ukraine and Europe
- Met with individuals, families, church ministry committee, potential and current ministry partners
- Received numerous invitations to speak at CBF churches
- Counseling to Ukrainians
- Helped find housing for a Ukrainian family of five in Florida with support of CBF Florida
- Daily communication, counseling and support via messages with Ukrainians experiencing PTSD due to prolonged exposure to traumatic war circumstances
- Daily communication, support and encouragement with a chaplain who is in the front lines defending Kyiv. Saturday, that person sent a message to Gennady that they have been told that there will be a military attack that night with elite forces against them and they may not survive the night. If he did not communicate with Gennady in the morning, Gennady was to tell his wife and four children that he loved them very much and he died defending them. Praise God, Sunday morning our chaplain friend communicated that he is still alive. They were not attacked in the night, but have been bombed and shelled five times.
- Visited our 3 children for several days. We processed with them, grieved with them, ministered to them and cried and laughed with them.
- Took several seminars on how to take care of ourselves (compassion fatigue)
Mary van Rheenen — Romany Ministries in Europe
Mary van Rheenen, who serves in The Netherlands alongside her husband Keith Holmes, has strong partnerships with Christians in Moldova, which borders Ukraine. Mary reported that she has sent contributions form the CBF Ukraine Relief Fund to support partners across Moldova, who are providing emergency assistance to Ukrainians.
Read this new feature story on Mary and her ministry: “In Living Memory: Netherlands-based CBF field personnel helps meet needs of Ukrainian refugees”
Shane and Dianne McNary — Poprad, Slovakia
Slovakia has reported almost 250,000 refugees have arrived in Slovakia as of March 22. Below are ministry updates from CBF field personnel Shane McNary:
- Visited with Baptist church in Kosice and Apostolic church in Pavlovce nad Uhom in preparation for Eddie Aldape (CBF field personnel) visit.
- Picked up Eddie Aldape in Krakow, Poland to Veľké Kapušany in Slovakia
- Aid given to Baptist church in Ruzomberok, Slovakia and I preached there. Aid will buy clothing for several Ukrainian children to begin school. Slovak government will reimburse local schools 200 europs per Ukrainian refugee child at school to pay for all supplies.
- Continued consultation with Apostolic pastors about purchase of a building to serve as a warehouse to aid the relief efforts
- Hosted overnight visit of 3 Czech Roma pastors on their way to a funeral for the wife of the coordinator for Roma ministries in Eastern Slovakia.
- Ordered washing machine for use at Pavlovce nad Uhom church for refugees
Eddie Aldape — Albacete, Spain (temporarily Slovakia)
Eddie Aldape serves alongside his wife, Macarena, has a CBF field personnel in Albacete, Spain. He left March 15 to travel to Slovakia to assist Shane McNary in the relief efforts. Following a week in Slovakia, Eddie provided this update:
“During our work as Red Cross volunteers serving refugees, we met several Ukrainian families and continued friendships since then. These families are struggling to provide for their own children because their request for asylum was declined and now must work without a permit, which results in lower wages and exploitation in many cases.
As things started looking like an invasion was inevitable, we started a WhatsApp group with all the Ukrainians. As soon as the war started, we have been in constant communication on how we can minister to them. Every family has members that either were not able to leave. Some family members are not able to travel because of their age and others stayed behind to care for the elderly. Others decided to stay because their husbands were not allowed to leave, and they decided to stay together. Others tried to leave several times, but there were so many trying to leave that trains were always full by the time they would get to the front of the line.
One family could not convince other family members to leave, but they were going to host a life-long family friend and church member. This friend was living in an assisted living apartment due to his disability. He and six of his neighbors decided to stick together as they left Ukraine so they could help each other out. They arrived in Poland safe and sound, but every place that would host them would only allow them to stay 1-2 days. After staying in several locations, they arrived at a center which serves people with disabilities, and they will allow them to stay as long as they need. What a blessing. They will also be allowed to stay together.
Another family arrived in Romania in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had a little bit of money, but it was Ukrainian currency. We were able to send them enough money for food, to stay in a one-bedroom place and purchase bus tickets to Madrid. Once they were in Spain, we loaned our car so they could bring them to Albacete. They will be applying for asylum as soon as possible, but until then we have provided groceries, bunk beds and some clothing.
A family of five, the parents and their three little girls were trying to take a train to Romania, without getting separated in the multitude of people at the train station. Trains come into the station and once they are full it pulls out and another pulls in. By the time they got on a train, they were heading to Poland and would arrive at 4 a.m. We unsuccessfully tried to find a place for them to stay. They were not allowed to use mobile phones for fear that the Russians would track the train and attack. They arrived somewhere thinking they were in Poland, but discovered that they were still in Ukraine, about 20km from the border. We are waiting to hear from them. They will try to buy bus tickets to Spain also.
The other families are going to stay in Ukraine. Some live in locations that are now occupied by Russian troops and are not able to escape. They are running low on food and things.
I arrived in Poland last week and rode with Shane McNary the next day. Shane made an update video which I shared with our Facebook page. Thursday morning, we picked up a 5-passenger minivan with cargo space. The larger 9-passenger vans were all out. That same afternoon, after checking in to the hotel where I will be staying during my time here, I started transporting people to the train/bus station. Shane and I also traveled to the Ukrainian border, or close to it as they were not allowing vehicles past 1km from the border. There is a check point at a school where those coming in register. Shane helped me make another video to share with our followers.
We cleaned up the local church where people were staying since the war started, but have now moved to another country. We have given it a fresh coat of paint, have sorted out some of the donations that are still there, and organized it for easier access. Since then, I have been transporting people to and from the border, the bus and train station, to the grocery stores and the church. We attended a Roma worship service which was great.
Alicia and Jeff Lee — Skopje, North Macedonia
Alicia and Jeff Lee reported that Macedonia recently began receiving refugees from Ukraine. Below is an update from the Lees:
Macedonia began receiving refugees from Ukraine over the weekend. The number is around 50. The Food Bank of Macedonia is responding by providing food for those in need. We are getting a list of needs from the families. Most of the families have come without the father because, as you all know, the men have to stay. The families are staying in flats and apartments set up by the municipality. We do not know if the number will increase. We are working with a Catholic refugee ministry to provide other needs that are requested.
Please give generously to the Ukraine Relief Fund at www.cbf.net/ukraine.