War damage in Ukraine
Keeping The Faith in War-Torn Ukraine
By: Jeanette Windle
Just ten months ago in January 2022, BCM Ukraine field director Tima Anokhin received the baton of leadership from outgoing director Igor Kotenko (read Still Speaking Truth in Ukraine). Covid-19 restrictions finally easing, excitement was high to resume in-person summer camps, youth outreach, and care for war orphans, the handicapped, and their families.
None then could have anticipated that within a few weeks the Russian war machine would roll across Ukraine borders from the north, east, and south, placing all of Ukraine territory under attack. Eight months later, the conflict has internally displaced seven million people with another six million taking refuge in surrounding countries. Entire cities and towns across Ukraine are in rubble from Russian missiles, tens of thousands of civilians dead or injured, with mass executions, torture, and other Russian army atrocities exposed on a daily basis. This has included shelling of hospitals, schools, children’s playgrounds, and other civilian institutions.
How has this affected BCM Ukraine? Throughout the conflict, BCM leadership has stepped forward into danger zones to help those in need, beginning with the Mariupol orphanage where Tima and his wife Natasha have served long-term (see Good Samaritans Still Needed in Ukraine’s War Zones). An early target of the invasion, over ninety percent of Mariupol’s infrastructure has been destroyed, including much damage to the orphanage. A herculean journey through roadblocks and bombardments in constantly breaking-down vehicles eventually saw the orphan children evacuated to Germany, where BCM ministry partners have provided sanctuary. Meanwhile, the Mariupol orphanage director and wife remained behind, caring for almost a hundred refugees within the orphanage grounds.
In the Ukraine capital of Kiev and surrounding towns, constant bombardment has destroyed many buildings while the Russian siege that followed resulted in further loss through looting and execution of civilians. While many residents, including evangelical congregations and pastors, have fled the zone, BCM Ukraine leadership remains on site (names withheld for security reasons). Initially, some wives with underage children were evacuated to other BCM ministry centers outside Ukraine while the men remained to continue ministry and aid distribution. Most have now returned.
This has not been without risk. One BCM Ukraine missionary family lost their home when a Russian bomb hit their apartment. Another shares of one of his seminary students whose entire family was murdered by Russian soldiers. Numerous local pastors and believers were arrested, some tortured and killed, under the pretext that being evangelical meant that they were pro-west and pro-American, therefore complicit in resisting Russian occupation. Another BCM ministry partner who remained in Mariupol to help with refugees was murdered by soldiers. Four others were killed when a missile struck their ministry vehicle, among more than twenty thousand killed in that city alone.
The Kiev suburb of Bucha, site of BCM summer camps and home to several BCM missionaries, was occupied by Russian troops. When they were finally driven out, ninety-nine percent of the buildings were discovered looted and damaged, electric and water infrastructures destroyed, hundreds of bodies left rotting in the streets and mass graves, and landmines planted on the camp property and other areas. Those choosing to remain in Kiev and surrounding towns live daily with the blare of air raid sirens and thunder of missile strikes.
Church children sheltering
But as in Mariupol, these setbacks haven’t deterred BCM Ukraine leadership from continuing to serve God and their countrymen. For months, almost two hundred refugees found sanctuary, food, and water in the basement of the Bucha church. Meanwhile, BCM ministries across Europe and around the world organized aid drives. The BCM Italy field alone collected more than twenty tons of needed supplies and organized a convoy to ferry the aid to the Ukraine border. Donations from the BCM family in North America and other nations facilitated the purchase of a second-hand van, which is being used to distribute aid in numerous towns, including Bucha and Mariupol.
More convoys have followed. And not just aid from the outside. In one village, itself facing great need, Christians and non-Christians came together to collect more than two tons of supplies for the BCM van to distribute in war zones. Western Ukraine churches and BCM personnel are also ministering to internal-refugee families, including outdoor and camp activities for displaced children, handicapped, and war victims, as well as helping board up and repair bomb-damaged homes.
Meantime, in the midst of tragedy and violence, God has been working. The first BCM aid run into Bucha was celebrated with a worship service that had more than twelve hundred in attendance, a majority non-Christian. Every place the BCM Ukraine team takes aid, they also share the gospel. Many have accepted Christ, and many ask for Bibles along with their food aid. In fact, across Ukraine churches are seeing packed-out worship services as hardship and desperation turn many Ukrainians to God.
With no end to the conflict in sight, great challenges remain, especially as winter sets in. In many areas, there is still no electricity or running water. Firewood, warm clothing, and fuel for vehicles and generators are major necessities. Sickness is on the rise with much medical infrastructure destroyed and shortages of food and medicine. What is available is often too costly for purchase, especially with the high unemployment resulting from massive destruction and displacement. Dead bodies and lack of sanitation have led to cholera outbreaks. To add to the upheaval, the school year has started, but many Ukrainian schools have been destroyed or aren’t able to open. Many displaced children are having to study in a shelter or online.
“We still have a war,” expresses BCM field director Tima Anokhin. “Today more kids became orphans. More parents lost their kids. More people continue to die and disappear in occupied territories. We need your prayers. Please pray for those who are hearing God’s Word and receiving food packets that God will touch their hearts. Pray that God will continue to protect us and provide for a hard, cold winter ahead. Pray for a return of peace in our country. Thank you again for your prayers and support. We lean on our heavenly Father as we continue to serve those in need the ministry.”
To help the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, donations can be made at www.bcmintl.org/ukraine-crisis.
Church kids sheltering; Distributing aid; Bucha church service
Bucha church service
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