As hundreds of thousands of people flee Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion last week, North Carolina Baptists and partner organizations in Eastern Europe are ministering to refugees while also making plans for long-term relief efforts.
Citing estimates from the United Nations, various media outlets reported Monday (Feb. 28) that more than 500,000 people have already escaped from Ukraine into neighboring countries such as Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Hungarian Baptist Aid, a longtime partner with N.C. Baptists on Mission, is housing some of those refugees at a local school where N.C. Baptists have sent numerous short-term missions teams to serve in a variety of ministry projects since 2014.
Alicia Jones, a full-time missionary in Hungary and daughter of N.C. Baptists on Mission staff member Teresa Jones, is working directly with these refugees in Hungary, Romania and other countries through Hungarian Baptist Aid.
Baptists on Mission officials have wired $20,000 to ministry leaders in Hungary to assist with refugee relief supplies.
N.C. Baptist officials have wired an additional $10,000 to the Baptist Union of Moldova to assist with ministering to refugees. In the 24 hours following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moldovan officials said they had received approximately 16,000 Ukrainian refugees, according to news reports.
N.C. Baptists have worked with Moldovan Baptists and churches in the country since 2011. Dozens of N.C. Baptist churches continue to have direct partnerships with churches in Moldova, according to Chuck Register, director of the Mission Catalysts Group of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Register said Moldovan Baptist leaders are equipped to house approximately 350 refugees by utlizing their union offices, the Baptist Seminary in Kishinev and local churches along the Ukrainian border. Register said he is in discussions with Moldovan Baptist leaders about how N.C. Baptists can assist with both the short- and long-term relief efforts.
“We need to continue to be in concerted prayer for our brothers and sisters in the region,” Register said. “We also need to be ready to give and mobilize to take the gospel into a setting where people are hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to verbalize the gospel while we meet real needs of human suffering.”
“Pray for Ukraine, but also consider helping financially and be ready to go as a volunteer when doors are opened.” — Richard Brunson
How you can help
Individuals and churches may make financial donations to directly assist displaced families through N.C. Baptists on Mission, which has a long history of ministry partnerships in Ukraine and the surrounding region.
Contributions may be made online by visiting baptistsonmission.org/ukraine-crisis/update. Contributions may also be made by mailing a check to: Baptists on Mission, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Please write “Ukraine Crisis” in the memo line.
Funds received will go toward non-perishable food items, toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags, mattresses and other essential needs for temporary housing.
At the same webpage, individuals may also register as a potential volunteer to go serve and assist with the relief efforts in the region when it is safe to do so. Signing up isn’t an obligation to serve.
Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptists on Mission, said he had been in contact with local ministry leaders and pastors in the days following the initial invasion.
“They asked us to pray for them and pray for their churches,” Brunson said. “There is a lot of resolve among the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian Baptists. Pray for Ukraine, but also consider helping financially and be ready to go as a volunteer when doors are opened.”
Brunson said Baptists on Mission officials are also working with the international arm of Send Relief — a joint compassion ministry effort of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board — as well as other state conventions to assist with refugee resettlement efforts in Poland. Plans are underway to send a small assessment and planning team to Poland in the coming days.
‘Long history of work’
N.C. Baptists’ involvement in Ukraine and Eastern Europe dates back to the mid-1990s. From 1994 to 2000, N.C. Baptists worked with the Ukraine Baptist Union and sent hundreds of volunteers to Ukraine to serve in construction, medical missions, church planting and many other projects. During this period, N.C. Baptists purchased and renovated Kyiv Theological Seminary, which trains Ukrainian pastors and missionaries.
Through a partnership with Hungarian Baptist Aid, Baptists on Mission have enjoyed a partnership with the Hungarian-speaking Roma people of central and eastern Europe since 2008. In 2014, new doors of opportunity opened in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine.
N.C. Baptists have shared the love of Christ with Roma communities through medical clinics, Vacation Bible School, outreach events and evangelistic services. Teams have also worked in the Hungarian public schools to provide English Bible camps in areas where there is little to no evangelistic witness.
These and other missions and ministry opportunities are made possible through N.C. Baptists’ generosity and support of the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.
“We have a long history of work in Ukraine,” Brunson said. “When God opens more doors after the current crisis, we have to be ready to respond. There will be lots of opportunities for our volunteers from North Carolina, as well as volunteers from many other states who want to work with us.”