Most of us have felt helpless viewing the coverage of the continued war in Ukraine. We’ve seen images on our TVs of men, women and children dropping everything to leave their homes, walking by foot in search of safety and refuge. We’ve heard about families being separated while fleeing the chaos. Scenes of families hiding in bunkers with dwindling supplies and babies wearing plastic bags as diapers haunt social media platforms. We find ourselves asking again and again: what can we do to effectively help such a tragic situation out of our control?
We may not have the single answer, but we aren’t helpless either.
I recently visited Romania, which borders Ukraine. Over the last few months, a partner organization of Bethany’s has established stations there for refugees fleeing the war. What I saw humbled me.
I spotted a Ukrainian woman volunteering at one of our Bethany Christian Services partner locations, Bethany Foundation. She looked tired. She could have fled even further. So, I asked her: Why are you here?
“I’m helping my people,” she told me. She showed me a photo of the metro car where her grandfather is currently living due to the fighting overhead. His home now consists of three train seats, and his only possessions a small candle and a book.
She continued sharing her story, citing her faith as the reason she was serving others who have been forced from their homes due to the ongoing violence. She was there being God’s hands and feet–while her own family, just across the border, hid from death. Still, she remained remarkably unwavering.
Just like this courageous woman, there are men and women working day and night to make God’s grace and comfort tangible to those who are suffering. And their efforts are impacting millions.
According to the United Nations, more than 13 million people have fled their homes since Russia invaded Ukraine–the vast majority being women and children–and border crossings from the Ukraine to neighboring countries since Feb 24 has reached more than 7 1/2 million. Romania and Moldova have taken in over one million refugees so far, while eight million people are displaced in Ukraine itself. As the war continues, the need for help is urgently growing.
Specific needs at the sites vary–for some refugees, it’s as simple as rest, a shower, and logistical support while they formulate a plan. Others need medical attention or more intensive aid. The number of unaccompanied children fleeing Ukraine by themselves grows every day as they have been separated from their parents and families. There are young children living through isolating fear, loneliness, pain, and uncertainty. It’s unfathomable to most of us who have never been forced to flee our homes.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by these numbers or alienated by the monumental task we’ve been called to as Christians to care for the vulnerable. But it’s also possible to help in tangible ways, even if we’re not on the frontlines like the heroic Ukrainian woman I met.
So, where do we start?
Pray. Specifically, for resolution to the brutal and tragic wars we witness. Pray that God will intercede on behalf of justice and peace, and also pray for His healing. Only the grace and mercy of our God can sufficiently comfort those subjected to such extreme injustices and horrors.
Donate. You can give to organizations with boots on the ground, who know the communities they are serving and are already responding to local needs. Organizations like Bethany Foundation in Romania, World Relief, World Vision and many others are connected to local communities to provide support and direct help where we can. One refugee aid organization I visited hadn’t been able to pay their staff for two months. Others may not be able to pay staff in the future and will need continued resources to keep serving. Your donation matters, and for someone it could be the difference between life and death.
Support families here at home. You could also choose to sponsor a refugee family once they’re resettled in America. Our nation will likely bring in about 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who will be coping with trauma and loss after being uprooted from their homes, some violently overnight. They will need help navigating complicated legal processes in their first few months here — not to mention the rapid acclimation required to make their way through everyday tasks like getting groceries, finding a job, getting a driver’s license, and attending medical visits.
Individual engagement matters but I challenge all of us to get to work in our church communities to help sponsor these families and welcome them.
Meeting the needs of these men, women, and children is far more than a logistical or humanitarian task. It is specifically a Christian calling. We must show them the Christ we know, that I know. Show them His mercy, compassion, and humility. This is our chance to serve and to point them toward hope. Let’s resolve to start today, on World Refugee Day.
Together, we can minister to the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner, acting with the gentleness, faithfulness, and strength of our God. We can show humanity what we know the Church can do.
Chris Palusky is the President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services.