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Serving Ukrainians

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  • It’s interesting to think that a Zoom meeting I had almost two years ago with a worker who has been serving students in Ukraine would lead to a strong and sincere friendship. We naturally began a process of mutual mentoring and encouragement. I’ll call him Yarik*. I was encouraged by what my friend was doing among the students and at the same time I was able to share about my work among those who are refugees and some of the challenges I face.

    A few months later, I had the privilege of going to Ukraine to see Yarik work, as well as some of the students, and together with them I went hiking and camping in the Carpathian Mountains. Being in that stunning place was one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had. I was able to experience up close the welcoming nature of the Ukrainian people. A few more months passed and Yarik had the opportunity to come to visit me in the country where I serve, We went hiking along the coast and once again we were able to understand that the Kingdom of God is also a kingdom of friends. During this hike, Yarik was afraid to return to his country and find it occupied by the other bigger country. That was in January of this year.

    It wasn’t long after Yarik return to Ukraine that the war began. I remember the morning when in shock he wrote to me saying, “Friend, what we feared most began, The worst is already happening!” I confess that a feeling of strangeness and sadness came over me. I thought a lot about Yarik’s safety dreams, and plans, I thought about what would happen to his family, to the Ukrainian children and to all the people of that nation, I wondered how I could be effective and serve them, even if I was far away?

    Just before the war started, as this was an imminent possibility, some friends and I were able to have some Zoom meetings with Yarik and help him brainstorm effective actions to welcome the internally displaced people, support the soldiers and help with other needs they might have, So, unfortunately, this plan became tangible enough for us to start mobilizing financial resources and providing support according to the needs that were emerging. I wasn’t sure I was doing it right, but I was determined to learn, keep going, and be a good friend in serving the people of Yarik.

    However, we could not start all of this without prayer. We held a Zoom meeting on a Saturday night the week the war started People from different countries, cultures and languages joined this meeting and together with Yarik and another young Ukrainian, we encouraged each other in a mutual way, These weekly online meetings still take place every Saturday evening.

    At the same time, I have mobilised people from different backgrounds to send financial support and it has been a blessing to see more and more people coming together to contribute. We organised a training with a Brazilian worker who served for 17 years in Angola and during the civil war and also another one on trauma focusing on adults and children with psychologists. I have held online debriefings and used my skills in this way with some Ukrainian students.

    In the meantime, I was able to go to another country for a personal reason and it was the same country that Yarik’s family had moved to as asylum seekers. My fiancĂ©e and I were able to visit them. It was a lovely afternoon. We had lunch together and were able to hear about their pain and the testimonies of leaving the country and how all the suffering with the war has been. But we were also able to pray together, encourage each other, and feel the connection of Christ as brothers and sisters in that place, I was able to learn to count from 1 to 10 in Ukrainian from Yarik’s grandmother and apparently I’m not a good student? While I was there, I was reminded of the Syrian and Afghan families I have met during these five years that I have served people who are refugees in different countries. I was reminded of the Lord’s call on my life to be a part of what He has done in the world through social justice.

    On the way back from the visit, I couldn’t hold back my tears on the car ride. My feeling was of helplessness, anger and sadness at the thought of all that this war has caused On the other hand, I felt privileged to be able to serve and be an instrument that brought comfort to Yarik’s family.

    Serving Ukrainians at this time (albeit remotely) was not something that was on my mind when I moved to the country where I serve, but it was something the Lord had prepared for me. This has been transformative in my life and in my walk with Him realising that a sincere friendship with Yarik has encouraged me to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to be with him at this time as a good friend. Learning to love Ukrainians more and more with the hope that one day this war will end and they will be able to rebuild this homeland of brave people with hope and a genuine smile.

    This story was written by an Interserve Partner in West Asia

    *Not the real name.

    We currently have new opportunities that were shared this month, including a ‘Refugee Worker’ role. You can view this article here:

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