LISTEN TO EP.74
Ukraine in Crisis: How the Church is Responding
As bombs explode and refugees flee to safety, hear how the local church is bringing hope and help in Ukraine’s great time of need. Co-hosts, Dave Donaldson and Scott Young, are joined by pastor Wendell Vinson and Karl Hargestam of CityServe to discuss how CityServe Europe is coming alongside churches in Poland, Romania, and Ukraine to help meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those affected and displaced by conflict. Learn of the amazing efforts that are already underway and how you can be part of the solution by partnering with CityServe to serve those impacted by the heartbreaking outcomes of war. It’s easy to get distracted by the politics spinning in news and social media, but let this episode turn your compassion to the real victims in need of our earnest prayer and tangible support.
Ukraine is in crisis. Bombs have exploded. Civilians have been killed. Refugees are fleeing. People have experienced trauma like they never have in their life time. What is our response? We can pray, but I found the best kind of prayer is to say, “God, how can I be part of the solution?” Welcome to a special addition of the Influencers Podcast today. We’re talking about the crisis in Ukraine and what you can do to influence people on the other side of the world; what churches can do to help other churches.
I’m Scott Young, co-host of The Influencers Podcast, and we have a special panel of guests to help us understand the global impact of what’s happening in Ukraine today. We have the co-founders of CityServe Dave Donaldson and Wendell Vinson. We have the Executive Director of CityServe International, Karl Hargestam.
What is Really Happening in Ukraine?
Dave, we’re going to start with you. We’d like to just get an overview of what you see happening in Ukraine and how CityServe and the people, who are listening to this podcast, can respond. And let me just remind the people listening: if you want to respond, you can go to https://cityserve.us/ and become part of the solution. Dave, tell us what you see happening in Ukraine.
Scott, as you just shared, millions of Ukrainians are internally displaced. They’re fleeing for their lives. As of now, civilians are targets. Others are forced to seek refuge and neighboring countries. According to the United nations, at least 400,000 people have already fled their homes. And they’re going to countries like Poland, Romania, and others. This could grow to four to 5 million. So think about that. And also as World Vision has reported, as this intensifies, children usually bear the greatest brunt and, we’re seeing children already. They’re experiencing the violence, and the toll it’s putting on them, physically mentally; they see the loss of loved ones, and destruction of their homes. In the midst of all of this chaos, we have the church that Jesus said He was going to raise up. So CityServe is coming alongside the local church to respond to these cries, to run to them. We are feeding hungry families. We’re providing emergency supplies, and connecting these refugees to housing. We’ll talk about that in a moment. But probably as importantly or more importantly, we are there supporting that church so that they can provide the spiritual and emotional support. We’re believing in the midst of all this darkness, the Light of the Gospel will shine brighter than it ever has in Europe.
How Will CityServe be Helping?
How will CityServe be helping these local churches that are on the ground and close to the need, Dave?
Well, as I mentioned we are going to work through the local church and unfortunately we have heard from religious leaders on the ground, there on the front lines, that a lot of well-meaning NGOs, nongovernment organizations, relief organizations, are there but they’re not working with the local church. And I know Wendell wants to talk with us about that And Karl about how we are working with the local church, but that’s our focal point. We’re going to feed million of families. Emergency supplies are needed. These are people that have lost everything and some have driven their cars over the border trying to get to families in these neighboring countries, but don’t have enough gas. But we’re going to connect these refugees to safe, secure housing. I have three daughters and I can’t imagine three daughters entering an unknown country and trying to find a place that’s safe to sleep and to live. That’s why the local church, that trusted church, is so important. And also we want to make sure that people are being prayed over and that they’re being cared for long term, and that’s only going to happen through our churches there.
Bring Help Inside the Crisis
So Karl, you’ve been talking to people right on the ground in that region. What have they been telling you about what they’re facing and the needs that they have in that area?
We have firsthand information, fluid hour by hour, minute by minute. But the Bishop for the movement that we work with in Poland, Kaminsky, is supervising in lots of churches, both on the border between Ukraine and Poland and also inside Poland. There’s some pastors that been part of on his support network there reporting. In fact, I FaceTimed earlier today with a church; they’re housing people in churches, classrooms. They’re putting children in beds, you’re stacking them. And it’s mostly women and children coming in. They’re cooking for them, and trying to provide beds. The challenges you could hear in their voice. We have people coming over as they be in 60, 70 hours in line crossing the border people with diabetes. So there’s things we don’t even think about. They there’s no pharmacy here. There’s not food or hygiene or bathrooms, even medicine, prescription medicine that we take for granted. Now it’s all thrown into chaos and people with some of those illnesses, they’re just scrambling trying to find a way to serve them. But what an incredible side to see the churches respond. What he told me also is that now the church is, we know both from the Polish side, going into the to the border. They’re also finding a way to get into Ukraine and serve the churches inside. And they’re saying the need in on the Poland side, the refugees coming to the border. It’s a crisis that inside now: there is no food for the churches and the people staying are not leaving. And they found some ways to start serving in there, but there is a growing humanitarian crisis and the churches we see on the front line truly is an incredible thing to see.
So help that comes into CityServe is not just going to go to Poland. It’s going to get across the border into Ukraine to help the situation there. That’s what they’re asking?
Absolutely. In fact, they have opened up channels to move in, and they think that we need to try to get in because that’s where the growing need is. And we see that on multiple border fronts, but Poland, where we’re sending and serving, will both be on the Ukrainian side and on the Polish side or on the border, as the refugees are coming across.
Revival on the Heels of Crisis?
Karl, just tell us a little bit the relationships you have in that region of the world, and how you are strategically positioned to help CityServe, and help that region.
He serves as Senior Advisor for CityServe. He is the chairman for the Fellowship over 55 nations of fellowships. Just in Romania, you have 3,500 churches. They gathered last Sunday: you’re praying for this crisis. They’re also moving products and food in into Ukraine. The bottleneck is on the Ukrainian side, but we served this mission over 20 years ago in Ethiopia together. You have friends and then you have friends that you spend vacation with. He’s one of those, we were missioners. We’ve been meeting everywhere for the last couple of decades, but so he is a friend of CityServe, of all of us. And obviously, this is all his leadership.
So I’ve been serving with them over the years; born in Sweden, Scandinavia. This was our backyard. This is where we did missions. When I grew up, we used to smuggle Bibles across Finland, into Soviet when it was before 91. Think about it. I remember when we all lifted hands December, 1991, and everyone said, “Peace, peace to the world”, 40 years ago. Everyone thought it was peace day. Everyone in Europe, you talk with whether it’s a Scandinavia south Europe, that day’s gone, and everyone is worried at the language being almost nuclear that people are wondering what’s going to happen here. But for certain, I think as we’re praying for a heavy perspective here, we’ve been working in laboring a part of the revivals. The last couple of decades, it’s really been in the Eastern blocks.
Ukraine has been one of those countries where you have large churches. The Lord did just an incredible work in the 90s into the 2000s. In some of those churches, you would hear when you would talk to pastors, Ukrainian Germans, Ukrainian Russians, speaking and serving in Russia, a lot of them were raised up there in that revival. So this is confusing for lots of people but Ukraine was such a hot revival. And I think now, we’re all anticipating maybe a moment, a catalyst moment, where the Lord is going to reignite a lot of the Western European, some European nations, that have been more secular. They don’t even acknowledge the Lord, even though today, everyone is paying attention.
Boots on the Ground
And it’s amazing how God has brought the right people together at the right time. He has pastor Wendell, Dave, Karl, Todd, I know Wendell, in a few days traveling to that region. And tell us a little bit about what you’re going to do and really how we can be praying for you.
Thank you, Scott. Well, we’re really thankful for every relief organization that will go into that region and do good work. It’s important work. All of those organizations we pray for, work with, but the CityServe strategy is to really go in and work through that local church, because after everyone pulls out, that local church will be what remains, and our goal is to come alongside them, to strengthen them, encourage them, to build capacity, and to work with them. Also to help them network with the churches in their region, and to serve the opportunity that is before them, which is a huge opportunity. I’m confident that God’s going to use what the enemy means for evil here as a catalyst for something very powerful to take place. People are looking to the Lord in this. And we believe this is just a unique opportunity to see the Church strengthened. It is the infrastructure for the healing of the world. And we believe that this is a unique opportunity, and an important time for the church. We’re excited. CityServe is excited for the opportunity to serve our churches in Europe.
Long Term Solutions Required
Dave, this is not going to be a short term operation. You are thinking long term, right?
Well, we are setting up CityServe Europe to be there permanently. I just want to, if we can, go back to specific ways that CityServe is aiding that local church: the feeding of the families, we are providing hot, nutritious meals, we’re partnering with Mercy Chefs, and they’re headquartered there in Romania. So we’re literally taking these meals to the border of Romania and Ukraine. And I’m sure most of our listeners have seen these families that are waiting three to six days. They’re at the border. They’re hungry, dehydrated. We’re going to them with hot meals and liquid. Also we’re going to be packaging over a million meals and we’re going to be utilizing our hubs across these border countries to help these churches feed the refugees.
We believe that of these hubs will just stay there. They’ll continue to be our CityServe hubs, just like we have across America. God’s going to use this as a catalyst to really resource the church long term. The other thing I want to mention, and maybe better mention, and that is there’s 7.5 million children that are already at great risk, and this is only going to grow as experts are predicting, and if it does deteriorate, this is going to have lasting effects on children. Around the world, I’ve seen this; I’ve worked in over a hundred countries and I have seen firsthand the toll that war takes on children, physically, mentally long term health defects. And as I mentioned, when you are with children, who have seen firsthand the loss of a loved one, the destruction of their homes, who’ve seen on the news that even their schools are getting destroyed – all of this takes a toll. As Wendell mentioned, this is why the church is so important. It’s to really wrap its arms around the moms, but also these kids and to provide a trusted secure place – most kids have grown up trusting a church. This is another reason why this spiritual and emotional support that we’re going to provide that’s being provided right now, but we’re going to help grow- it is critical to this response.
How YOU Can Get Connected
And so can you tell us how people that are listening right now, friends who know deep in their heart, that they should be doing something to help how can we connect that desire to make a difference and compassionately reach this need? How can we connect the need with the heart that’s being moved, Wendell?
There’s opportunity for people to give. One of the projects right now is to get food into the hands of those who serve these refugees as they’re coming across the border. We’ll also be helping them with relief goods of all kinds, as you can imagine, that they’ll need as they try to just navigate these early days of this disaster. So we’re trying to get resources into the hands of the church. So the church can serve those people. The best way to do that is to give to pray and give at https://cityserve.us/ukrainian-crisis/; there’s Ukraine page there that gives people clarity on what we’re doing, and we’ll direct them in terms of the opportunity to support this work. So we’re excited to see people mobilized here to make a difference there in Ukraine.
So the website https://cityserve.us/ and you will be able to connect with this incredible need. I think we should pray; you guys are going to be there in just a few days. And I want to just invite our friends to pray. Of course, we’re praying for Ukraine, just let open your heart and just let the Holy Spirit do something right where you are; prayer changes things. And then ask God, “How can I be part of the solution?”
Lord, we pause. We humble ourselves. And we pray together for Ukraine. We pray over this special trip that our team is taking, protect them with angelic hosts. We pray against darkness. We pray that you would touch lives and turn evil back. We pray for the hearts of people that are listening to be moved to action, to not just sit on the sideline and that we become part of the solution. We pray for President Zelensky, his family, his fellow leaders. We pray for all of those who are standing for freedom and against evil tyranny. We pray that God’s protection and guidance would be over those that need God’s love to surround them. We pray for church leaders and community leaders. Lord, would you do a miracle? Would you bring goodness and grace out of this situation? We pray it in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
Someday we’re all going to look into Jesus’ eyes. And I just want to hear him say, “Well done”. And I’ve just found the best way to hear “well done” is to do well, to choose to do something. Let me encourage you be a part of the solution by going to https://cityserve.us/.
I want to thank our panel for just your passion for input and for your time to be with us on the Influencers Podcast. And I want to remind all of our listeners, you are called to be an influencer to be light in a dark world. I hope today that you have been inspired to make a difference in your neighborhood and to touch the nations of the world. Let your light shine brightly today and every day.