By Samantha Kamman, Christian Post Reporter
This article first appeared in Christian Post.
As Wednesday marks Ukraine’s Independence Day, Christian nonprofits and churches continue to assist those left devastated by Russia’s invasion as Christians worldwide are urged to set aside time to pray for the war to end.
Aug. 24 is the anniversary of the day Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It also marks six months to the day Russia began its invasion of its neighbor.
The World Evangelical Alliance and the European Evangelical Alliance have issued a call for churches and believers worldwide to set aside time on Wednesday to pray that God will bring about an end to the war.
“As we look to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, let us pray for hearts to be changed and for the weapons to be silenced,” a World Evangelical Alliance statement reads. “Throughout history, God has changed hopeless and dire situations in surprising ways, and He can do it once again. And let us also pray for healing and for reconciliation, and that Russia and Ukraine could live in peace as independent, sovereign nations.”
Churches have been at the forefront of assisting the millions displaced by the Russian invasion that has killed thousands of civilians.
CityServe International is a nonprofit that equips churches with the resources to house and care for refugees in times of crisis. CityServe International launched CityServe Europe in response to Russia’s invasion and has supported people in Ukraine since the war started, in partnership with Ukrainian churches.
CityServe operates in multiple states across the U.S., including California, Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Florida. It also has a European network serving people in Baltic countries, such as Ukraine, Poland and Romania.
CityServe International CEO Dave Donaldson, who recently traveled to Ukraine, told The Christian Post that the organization is working with local churches all over Ukraine, which he noted has about 1,800 Pentecostal Ukrainian churches.
The group supplies churches with food and other household necessities to mobilize them as a place of safety for women, children and the elderly. According to its website, CityServe delivers goods to regions through a supply chain network of warehouses that channel supplies to local churches called “Point of Distribution” (PODS).
Donaldson said this support system is also set up in Ukraine’s neighboring countries, such as Poland and Moldova. In addition, the group has transported food through the Odessa region, which Donaldson said makes for another million meals delivered.
Donaldson returned this month from a weeklong trip to Ukraine, where he spent time traveling through Bucha, Kyiv and Odesa. He also spent time in Poland and Moldova. According to the chairman, the Polish police arrested 40 suspected traffickers while he was there.
“I saw this young lady who was around the age of my daughter, and she was crying and holding her baby,” he said. “So I gave her a hug, a fatherly hug, and as I pulled back, she pulled me toward her and said in Ukrainian, ‘Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.'”
While visiting the Ukrainian and Polish border, Donaldson saw women and children huddled in tents set up by the Polish government, hiding from the weather but also from predators.
Donaldson revealed during the interview that he has been doing this type of work for about three decades, which has helped him learn how to cultivate relationships, something he applies to build a church network. Many of the churches CityServe partners with have similar backgrounds.
In terms of how CityServe locates churches to partner with, Donaldson said, “good news travels.” He said that the organization also vets which churches to include in its network based on the needs of that particular location.
“It’s a combination of history of working in these cities and countries and through word of mouth,” he said.
The organization gained new partners during the COVID-19 pandemic when many families were in need of food and other products. CityServe worked with faith-based communities in 2,300 sites to help distribute resources to those in need.
“So right now, we’ve got a sizable waiting list of cities, of partners, wanting to become CityServe affiliates,” Donaldson said regarding the organization’s network in the U.S.
In addition to Pentecostal churches, CityServe Europe is also connected to the Pentecostal European Fellowship, which comprises 55 denominations.
“It’s a sizeable network of boots on the ground that we have the privilege of serving,” the CEO said.
CityServe in the U.S. has increased its funding through $130 million in grants it has won within the past 14 months.
According to Donaldson, CityServe has yet to win grants internationally but receives funding through donors.
“If you picture a triangle, the base of that triangle would be that individual donor, that monthly donor,” Donaldson said. In some cases, you have churches that donate as well. You have private sponsorship to help sponsor truck loads.”
The organization has spent over $2.5 million to assist churches overseas helping individuals displaced by Russia’s attacks. Donaldson is confident that they’ll eclipse $5 million in the near future.
The United Nations estimates that about 13 million people have been displaced since the invasion began on Feb. 24.
“The response of the evangelical community within Europe and across the globe has been heartening,” the WEA’s statement reads. “There has been an incredible outpouring of support from near and far: sacrificial offering of goods, funds, prayers and hospitality. Many people open their own homes to those who fled, the majority from Ukraine but also those from Russia and Belarus who reject the war and had to flee to neighboring countries. The needs remain great, so let us pray for the hospitality, solidarity and support to continue.”