I have had the opportunity realize the dream of a paper I wrote in graduate school at Fuller Seminary become a reality. I wrote this paper and submitted at the end of 2015. The proposal was turned into a reality the spring of 2016!
If your interested in learning more about how UOO will be partnering with Samaratin Ministries to serve IDP’s, please read the below which was written to assess the situation in Ukraine and explore how we can continue show the love of Christ by serving those living in the margins.
Part I: Introduction
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
The Dire Situation Today
The news is filled with reports of Syrian refugees fleeing from their homeland. The war on ISIS continues to affect the lives of innocent people, living on the fringes of society. In another country, which has lost the interest of reporters and the mainstream news, a war between Ukraine and Russian Separatists, who often are backed by Russia, continues to plague the eastern part of Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine started approximately a year and a half ago and continued to deteriorate as the numbers of those in exile continue to rise. Ukrainian refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) are in need of humanitarian aid due to being displaced by the conflict of war and surrounded by extreme poverty with little hope of assistance from the government. Internally Displaced Persons are defined by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as “among the world’s most vulnerable people…having not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained in their home countries”(UNHCR, 2015). The number of refugees and IDP’s in Ukraine ranges from 1.3 million (Marjanovich, 2015) to the United Nations estimate of 2.3 million; the statics are staggering and overwhelming.
It’s hard to imagine how one can make a difference as the vast numbers continue to be dynamic and require an immediate response by the International Church. The displaced are challenged with how to “fit” into their new culture of a war-torn Ukraine with their unique and traumatized identities. The conflict has divided communities and a vast number of families. Children, elderly, and those with disabilities are among the most vulnerable. The Ukrainian government appears to be struggling with assisting the masses of those looking for shelter, food and clothing (The New York Time, 2015). Children receive trauma as a result of fleeing the war and looking for safety; they are frightened, isolated, often discriminated against and fear imminent death. Refugee and IDP camps are dreadful, and frequently children are hungry and thirsty (Deutsche Welle, 2015). Ukrainian villagers are discouraged by the support of their country and rebuke the idea of Kiev building a ‘wall’ to secure the border, claiming a wall will not stop anyone and money would be better spent on caring for the people (BBC Ukraine, 2015). The refugees and IDP’s rely on volunteers who are filling the gap by responding to their dire needs. A unified Ukrainian response is nowhere to be found, some bitterly claiming that they are lost “in a bureaucratic maze” (Euraisianet, 2015). IDP’s are left to fend for themselves or turn to volunteers who are a part of local ministries. The government admits they are overwhelmed and lack the capacity to meet the needs of the people. The economy has plummeted down, and funds are limited and international promises have not been kept. Volunteers question how much more they can do, realizing 5 million people are currently living in eastern Ukraine, in the crossfire of conflict.
The Consequence of Memory
Looking at the past and seeing the reality that “memory contributes to current low aspirations and low confidence” (Kling, 178) makes it, even more, crucial that history has to be faced. As Americans, history is often difficult for us to grasp and we are slow to appreciate the consequence from the past. Furthermore, it is imperative to understand the backstory and memory of a culture to be able to move God’s Kingdom work forward. Although Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, it can be a “nation where today is often a servant to yesterday”(Kling, 171). Ukraine severed it’s ties with the former Soviet Union, in hopes towards new horizons, with dreams of democracy, independence, and freedom. The numerous experiences of working with Ukrainians on all different levels, from “directors” to ministry partners and emerging leaders, I have observed that many Ukrainians are “more resilient than trusting” (Kling, 183) and carry this impression at the very core of their being. It is not uncommon for our Ukrainian friends to feel invisible as a result of their context in history. In light of this, it brings a deeper understanding of how important it is to look people in the eyes, to know their names, to hear their stories, and to respect them as image bearers of God no matter what their present situations (Sutter, 139-141).
As Ukraine struggles to be independent from ‘big brother Russia’, our naive world culture has stumbled on a three-letter word and inadvertently shown disrespect by calling Ukraine “the Ukraine.” It is a very common mistake, made even by the highest political figures, and, unfortunately, is degrading to the Ukrainian people. With Ukraine “fighting to maintain stable autonomy as Russian boots step on their soil”(Time, 2015), their sensitivity is high and by saying ‘the’ Ukraine, it “denies their independence, denies their sovereignty”(Time, 2015). By dropping this three-letter word, ‘the’, it will send a vital message. Especially to world leaders, because “the Russians don’t really, in their gut, accept that there’s an independent Ukraine and Putin views the country as a ‘province’ of his own”(Times, 2015). A small bit of education and awareness will create a new culture and conceivably affect and influence the work we do with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The omission of “the” could be the start of a ripple effect “at the heart of the hoped-for future, which comes from the God of love, is the flourishing of individuals, communities, and our whole globe”(Volf, 56). Realizing that “the cultural world of language is more essential to human flourishing than the natural world of sound”(Crouch, 26), quite possibly may embolden the Ukrainian people to see good things unfold.
Ukraine Orphan Outreach
As an NGO, Ukraine Orphan Outreach (UOO) planted their seeds in 2007 and has organically grown from an orphan care advocate, supporting transitional housing for aged-out orphans in Ukraine, humanitarian assistance as well as promoting adoption. We are a small group of like-minded people who have become a grass-roots ministry called to advocacy. Throughout the years, we have remained committed to serving orphans through our existing programs, while, at the same time, we remain watchful and open towards the shifting changes and needs in Ukraine. UOO remains dedicated to exploring preventative measures for Ukrainian IDP’s and refugee families on the fringes and will “engage in fostering human flourishing and serving the common good”(Volf, 97). As co-founder and Executive Director of UOO, I am challenged by the dire situation in Ukraine but at the same time, feeling encouraged and equipped to explore creative avenues in which to care for the diaspora of the Ukrainian people.
The thesis of this paper is that the physical, emotional and spiritual detrimental effects experienced by Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) demand a response from the Church by bringing healing, provision and the love of Christ to this group of people.
Part II: Assessment From a Missiological Perspective Current Response and Engagement
Ukraine Orphan Outreach remains faithful to caring for orphans in the programs that are in existence, such as providing housing for aged-out orphans, sending humanitarian goods and twice-yearly mission trips. In addition, we will continue to be the voice of the orphan, their advocate, spreading awareness within our local community of influence in Colorado, as well as through social media such as Facebook, Instagram and UOO’s website. UOO has strong relationships with numerous Ukrainian Christian ministries, churches, and individuals that are trusted and connected to their community. UOO remains vigilant with keeping abreast with the current outside news of the events, due to the conflict, which allows opportunities to serve those on the margins.
Our most immediate response that involves the displaced families has been done through the assistance of our two transitional homes in Ukraine, the House of Hope and the House of Grace. With the communication challenges that are inevitable in ministry work being done overseas, UOO is blessed to have an active partnership with Agape Ministries. Our partnership has a fluid conduit of communication, as we have managed connectivity with the house parents through emails, cell phones, and detailed monthly reports. Through years of cultivation, UOO has worked actively with our partners “to build relationships based on equality, reciprocity, interdependency, and accountability”(Kling, 60). This mutuality did not come without past mistakes of inadvertently controlling the partnership. As a result of learning from our past, UOO places the upmost value on our relationships with our partners, recognizing the giftedness of others and be open to those without an education, wealth or contacts (Kling, 66, 67).
Maxim, who is the ‘house dad’ at the House of Grace, reports monthly of his efforts and outreach with the family of eight young men. With Maxim’s leadership, they are making a difference in the community of Kramatorsk. With the threat of war on their doorsteps, the past sixteen months of fighting has left nearly 7,000 people dead and more than 17,000 injured in Ukraine (UNHCR, 2015), including the area of Kramatorsk. Courageously and faithfully, Maxim serves the community by offering refuge for those displaced for as many as can fit into their small, modest home, which is on the outskirts of the city. The local orphanage is over capacity, and Maxim and the eight young men offer assistance in caring for displaced orphans who are caught in the crossfire. Our partnership has benefited those who are homeless by providing food, clothing, bunk beds and temporary shelter. The young men are overjoyed to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus as they visit the orphanage regularly, reading Bible stories, and befriending scores of fatherless children. With UOO’s help of funding the purchase of a van, community outreach through the House of Grace has increased their footprint in Kramatorsk, reaching further out into the margins.
While Maxim and the family at the House of Grace, in partnership with the local Baptist church, serve their community, the five young ladies living at the House of Hope have a unique role as well. Along with their ‘house mom’ Nadia, the young ladies visit area orphanages that are in their hometown of Kherson. Weekly visits consist of time spent encouraging the orphans as well as sharing about Jesus. The young ladies have also taken a role in helping Ukrainian soldiers by sewing and mending their military uniforms. The young ladies are sewing seeds of hope, by providing this seamstress service as an act of love. In addition, the young ladies are instruments used by God as seen in 1Corinthians, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” (1Cor. 3:6-8).
Observing beyond UOO’s ministry work both at home and in Ukraine, by assessing our partnerships is one that depicts a tapestry that the Master Weaver started back in 2005. By God breaking our hearts for what breaks his, as a result of adopting a sweet orphan, he continues to weave into our lives and ministry, with others who share the same passion for caring for the least. From a chance encounter of being exposed to the performance of Christian Broadcast Networks, “The Old Russian Shoemaker”, we have been woven into the intentional and perfect work of God’s design. The confirming scripture, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”(Rom. 8:28), paints the collaboration and exchanges between UOO and various partners which are God honoring and celebratory.
Upon the outbreak of war in Ukraine, UOO immediately connected with our trusted ministry partners: Ukraine without Orphans, CBN, Samaritan Ministry as well as Agape Ministries. To offer relief and encouragement to our partners, UOO asked them how we could be of assistance in the context in serving with them. Once our partners identified their needs, UOO was able to implement a plan of compassion. In the past 18-months, UOO has offered financial support to bring refuge to the displaced, and support the local churches so they are able to be the salt and light of Christ. We have participated in rebuilding an orphanage in eastern Ukraine that was occupied by Russian separatists and destroyed. We collaborated with Pastor Peter from Slavyansk to send containers from the US filled with humanitarian needs, as well as sending several US mission teams to aid that offered encouragement, and reassurance reinforcing our relationship with our partners.
Persecuted for Their Faith
While the partnerships mentioned above are exemplary, UOO has been inspired and moved by the work of our friends, Pastor Peter and Pastor Sergey, both living on the front lines in Eastern Ukraine. We have been honored to offer support, but what is on a very small scale as compared to their bravery, courage, persecution, faithfulness and commitment to the thousands of displaced families. Both pastors have had their lives threatened yet they live their lives searching for ways to reach out to fellow Ukrainians, who have lost everything. Even offering aid to those who have sided with their persecutors. Pastor Sergey firmly believes that this “crisis presents a choice and opportunity for awakening; this is the time for the church to prepare and be available for people in need”(Lisa Spencer, 2015). The persecution of both Sergey and Peter, along with their families, is a result of being Evangelical Christians.
Both leaders inspire Christians around the world, as they emulate the light of Christ through their response to the crisis. The Dudnik’s are credited with evacuating more than 8,000 people to safety, all in the wake of numerous bombings, as their hometown of Slavyansk was ultimately targeted. Sergey cautions that “one cannot separate people from ‘all good’ versus ‘all bad’ categories, and that in a battle for justice, there must be mercy”(Lisa Spencer, 2015). With the dire conflict deeply-rooted in his life, Peter found himself questioning his own theology and responded with the poignant words saying, “the answer he found was to repent…Christians are called to continuous self-reflection for character growth, adding that persecution offers an opportunity to assist a neighbor” (Lisa Spencer, 2015). In the pursuit of the common good, both pastors have modeled “some deep conviction about the ultimate truth of reality” and have bound themselves to something bigger than themselves, even when that binding is costly to them. Their actions are not ‘religious’ based on beliefs or worship, but committed actions based on what they believe. Pastor Peter and Pastor Sergey are living out scripture from James 1:27, through their public acts of caring for the least and be distinctly different than the culture of war, which surrounds their world (Andy Crouch, Qideas, 2015).
Assessing the ministry work that Ukraine Orphan Outreach is involved with, there are several key issues that require attention and improvement. The four elements listed below will be placed on the UOO’s board of directors next agenda with a prayerful, discerning, and practical plan to address the needs of IDP’s. We want to serve alongside our partners to bring an impact for the suffering and vulnerable in Ukraine.
Part III: Missional Proposal Creating Culture at Home
After assessing UOO’s ministry in regards to the current work with the adverse situation of displaced families in Ukraine, moving forward, UOO must address several vital issues. Through the undeniable, true stories of our friends Peter and Sergey they demonstrate “God at work in the lives of the powerless”(Crouch, 206), and are creating culture amidst the turmoil of war. Gabe Lyon’s concept of culture making through the Seven Channels of Influence (See Appendix 1) aligns with UOO’s desire to emulate Jesus as “he offers opportunities to both sets of cultural elites to respond to his message and change course”(Crouch, 207).
The UOO assessment has brought to light the need to “create something new, something that will persuade our neighbors to set aside some existing set of cultural goods for our new proposal”(Crouch, 67). The strategy will focus on the seven areas of influence within our culture. A hands-on approach will be pursued as we approach the New Year, which include broadening our outreach and impact with area churches by setting up meetings with mission pastors or teams to educate them on UOO as well as the current crisis in Ukraine (See Appendix 2). Also, UOO will explore how to get involved in our government sector, and local schools as well as expand our contact with local business by joining the Chamber of Commerce. UOO has entered the ‘Arts & Entertainment’ opportunity by promoting and encouraging our supporters to view the documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” which is available to view on Netflix. The trailer is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RibAQHeDia8. UOO has also been given an opportunity to be part of locally promoting a documentary called “Crocodile Gennadiy,” which has been part of many well-known film festivals including Tribeca Film Festival 2015 as well as the Crested Butte 2015 Film Festival. The compelling documentary profiles a Ukrainian pastor in the ongoing conflict in his hometown. This is a new endeavor of culture making for UOO, as Executive Director, creative talks with the promoter are currently in the works.
The opportunity for UOO to partner with Samaritan Ministries has been evaluated, and approval to move forward is pending on the vote at the upcoming January board of directors meeting. The proposal encompasses housing for the displaced into village homes outside the city of Zhytomyr Oblast. Currently, over 6,000 thousand IDP’s have temporary accommodation in the local hotels; recreation centers and scattered wherever they can find a safe place in the city. Once an IDP is registered with the government, they are eligible to receive 600UAH ($25) a month, which is nothing when compared to the current value of the dollar. From there, they are expected to find jobs and assimilate into their new, unfamiliar home, even though the cost of living is high and finding an affordable flat is a rarity.
Without considerable opportunities for displaced families to stay in the city, the shared vision for UOO and Samaritan Ministries, which serves a twofold solution. The first is in providing a home to the IDP family in the nearby village and the second is the benefit of ‘revitalizing’ the failing villages. Once a family would settle into their new village home, several objectives would be targeted, and each family would be supported during a predetermined transition period, approximately one year. During that time, the idea is that the family would utilize their land for growing crops, raising land stock, and working towards creating a sustainable future for their family. Besides family sustainability, the family would be encouraged to create their own small business opportunities, such as selling eggs, milk or growing strawberries. The overarching purpose of supporting IDP’s in the villages is to promote the yearning to create and transform their own culture as they “reflect on their own embeddedness in and responsibility for the culture around them” (Crouch, 180), as each new member in the village contributes to cultural creativity.
Samaritan Ministry and UOO, together, have listened to the culture around us, we can respond in particular ways to the trauma caused by our sin filled world. We have prioritized this mission by creating a safe and nurturing place and community for displaced families. By genuinely caring and providing for IDP’s physical needs, the Gospel is in action. Only then can a relationship building begin and progress towards a feeling of trust that leads to healing. Furthermore, it is recognized that the “service of healing is an integral part of the proclamation of the Gospel”(van Laar, 227). We are called to cultivate a healing community, looking to assist those living in the margins, such as the displaced. The fear that resides in those displaced as a result of a product of evil, they are looking for something they can rely upon. By meeting them where they are and bringing them the love of Christ and Jesus’s power of healing to a broken community, we will be able to witness the Good News.
There are measureless emotional scars left as a result of their horrific experiences in the eastern part of Ukraine. Samaritan Ministries is equipped with counselors that can start the healing process, offering psychological support, through the lenses of scripture. The mission is to lead villagers to speak of forgiveness, leaving behind vengeance and turning toward rebuilding and “healing of memories”(van Laar, 227). With the help of counseling, along with the love and support through a Christ-centered community, those who came from the margins will now be able to “experience restoration to wholeness”(Latini, 36), while being encouraged to be in communion with others and part of the cultivation of small groups. The healing that seemed impossible becomes real and leads to the restoration confirming the “good that comes as a gift from God- that is hope”(Volf, 56).
How do we help IDP’s process their anger and fear into grace? The defenseless and vulnerable people of Ukraine have been living in the margins of their homeland, fear for their life, fear of their loss of freedom, fear for safety, fear for provision and fear of one another, even family. The tension between Russia and Ukraine will continue to ebb and flow because of circumstances bigger than any one villager. The answer is to reach across the border in Christian brotherly and sisterly love. It is easier to love your neighbor than your enemy; even unbelievers can do that. Jesus challenges us by saying we are to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44-45). By Jesus saying this, he is creating a new standard for relationships with each other.
In partnership, the Ukraine, and Global Church can bring a culture shift to all those affected by the war. Much like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are to emulate Christ by demonstrating love to all kinds of people, no matter which side of the border they live on. UOO and Samaritan Ministry will venture together to be salt and light in a world of hopelessness. We will witness to IDP’s about Christ by lovingly walking with them as they seek freedom and mitigate their fears while trying to give up control in their surroundings. By abandoning fear and control, and surrendering all to God or, as Skye Jethani explains, “life with God and coming to see him as he truly is”(Skye Jethani, Qideas, 2015), something happens. God is the ultimate treasure and the divine message to love others. By assisting the displaced on their spiritual journey, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters have the potential of turning all their anger and control into the hands of our loving Father, and the problem of living in fear is released.
Part IV: Conclusion
Although “generations of repression and deprivation in Ukraine have taken their toll” (Kling, 184), there is a new horizon for the people of Ukraine, courageously endeavoring into a new tomorrow, but not without looking at their past. Ever since Ukraine’s struggle for freedom that started two years ago, this new generation’s ideology, young and old alike, has demonstrated their wishes to be forward thinking, actively creating and transforming their country’s culture.
Both the Ukrainian Church as well as the Global Church is the answer to bring refuge, a safe place to cultivate the common good resulting in a place to thrive to those who are currently in exile in Ukraine. Through what has been witnessed as an outcome of this assessment it has:
“Revealed a church that is neither weak, nor broken, but unified and strong, very present and courageously active during global conflict, speaking the truth in a world of lies, reaching into danger to rescue orphans and widows in their distress, and laying down their own lives as servants”(Lisa Spencer, 2015).
The inspiration and creativeness UOO continually receives from our ministry partners in Ukraine, and as we continue our alliance with all of them, we will passionately demonstrate the church through living examples during turbulent times. We are called to bring God’s Kingdom to these people, through meeting their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
“Who will come to save these people, if not the church that knows God will help? To do good, with God is possible” Pastor Peter Dudnik
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