"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." - Isaiah 55:10-11
The Ukrainian Refugee Crisis / War in Donbass - something most of you probably have not heard about on the news.
Currently, there are around 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens who have fled the violence in the eastern Donbass region of the country. They are flooding into other towns and cities and doing their best to settle, but local economies are totally overwhelmed. There are not enough jobs for these internally displaced families, and resources are scarce.
A little bit of background, for those who do not know what's happening in Ukraine right now: In the midst of revolution in March of 2014, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics began leading anti-Ukrainian demonstrations. Each of the groups has strong political ties to Russia, and more specifically Russia's prior annexation (by force) of Crimea. The demonstrations quickly escalated to violent battles, and Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine to intervene and have been there ever since.
Some reports claim that Russia actually sent a "humanitarian convoy" in order to protect Ukrainian citizens caught in the war zone. Other reports claim that Russia blatantly invaded.
Despite several cease-fire agreements, violent conflict continues. Whatever the true story is, there are are now 1.5 million people who are at risk of hunger, malnutrition, disease, depression, and alcoholism.
It's in situations like these that the Gospel of Jesus Christ spreads like wildfire.
IDES was blessed with the opportunity to provide food and basic necessities like winter coats and shoes to many families through our mission partners in Ukraine who are working diligently to serve those displace.
"Our volunteers invite people in need to come to church for a service. After the message is shared, the volunteers meet the guests, write down their needs and distribute food packets. Each packet sustains a family of four for a week," our partner said.
It all starts with a simple investment of compassion. When the Church (since IDES works through local churches and mission partners) is the first to step into a messy situation and offer physical love and care, those being served are much more willing to listen to the message.
"Everybody who received a package comes back to church. Right now, they are there to receive food, but lots of them ask for prayer and pray with our volunteers. Our volunteers work with these families on a weekly basis, forming relationships with them, attending to their needs. Most of these families [now] attend the church on a regular basis."
After meeting their physical needs, the door is wide open to meet their spiritual needs. Opportunities to pray for, minister to, and build relationships with the victims are abundant and fruitful.
"Most children started attending the Bible classes and the congregation doubled in size since we started this feeding [program]," our partner said. "God's word will not return void, and we see a change in these people's hearts."
As the fighting continues not only in Ukraine, but in other countries all over the world, will you join IDES in prayer for our brothers and sisters who are serving in harm's way?
Pray for generosity. Pray for boldness. Pray for an abundant harvest for our Lord.
Cleary, Colin. "Europe's Refugee Crisis Shows Ukraine's Resilience." United States Institute of Peace. UNSIP, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 03
May 2016. <http://www.usip.org/olivebranch/2015/10/19/europe-s-refugee-crisis-shows-ukraine-s-resilience>.
Harress, Christopher. "East Ukraine-Russia Conflict: War In Donbass Costing Kiev $5 Million A Day." International Business Times.
IBT, 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 03 May 2016. <http://www.ibtimes.com/east-ukraine-russia-conflict-war-donbass-costing-kiev-5-