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  • Greg Slingerland

Here I'm not afraid - there are no air raid sirens

It has been over 90 days since the Russians invaded Ukraine; three months of shelling, fighting, food shortages, fleeing, and destruction. Our partners in Ukraine have stepped up in incredible and selfless ways to respond to the great needs of the Ukrainian people who are suffering. The Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU), located in Kyiv, is no exception. Please take a moment to read this moving report on how your donations have been used:

One young girl, from a church where one of our students attends in Nilolaev, was very frightened all the time, and had real problems getting to sleep due to the air raid sirens and shelling. Before the seminary passed on your help, this family did not have the means to leave the village and travel to somewhere safer. She says (now in the new place of safety she has moved to) “Thank you. Here I am not afraid, here there are no air raid sirens and I can sleep in peace.”

Many if not most of the women and children from our churches have had to leave Ukraine. Almost all these families face a situation where at least one person in the family will have lost their job as a result of the war. They have to leave behind their husbands and home and family support network and, trusting God to provide, move to an unfamiliar country, where the cost of living is much much higher than back home. Due to your generosity, we have been able to bless many of these families from our churches with one-off gifts of a few hundred dollars to help them pay for the travel and get settled in a new country. Amongst these families are the those of the pastor and of one of the elders of our church in Kharkiv, a city that has been decimated by Russia’s carpet-bombing. In a city of over a million people and where the majority of people live in apartment blocks, well over seven hundred apartment blocks have been hit by Russian shelling. Another family of five, Christian friends of another seminary student of ours, managed to flee Mariupol after weeks of the siege but eventually arrived in our student’s town with little more than rags on their backs. Your gifts were able to help buy them clothing and other essential supplies.

Another one of our students from Zhytomyr was able to help multiple Christian families in great need when we passed on funds to them. When the shelling got worse where they lived we were able to help them move to a city further West. When the North of Ukraine was then liberated at the end of March they moved back. They found that people with mental disabilities had been moved from eastern Ukraine to homes in the relative safety of their city Zhytomyr. They had great need for basic clothing (socks, slippers) and other supplies such as tea and simple board games. Through our student and his wife, we were able to provide a lot of needed resources.

In another tragic case, we were able to contribute money towards an operation for five-year-old Mikhail with shrapnel lodged in his skull. His family of five (parents, sister and grandfather, they are friends of an ERSU’s colleague’s relative) had been fleeing Nikolaev (mostly encircled by Russian troops) in their car. Unfortunately, they hadn’t travelled far, when the Russians threw a grenade at the car, instantly killing the mother and sister and breaking the legs of the father. The boy was taken back to the hospital in Nikolaev where they were able to remove one piece of shrapnel from the boy’s head, but the rest required a very complex and expensive operation costing $15,000 in the Czech republic. We were able to give a significant contribution toward that.

Since 24 February many Ukrainians have courageously volunteered to defend their homeland and freedom and this includes men from our churches and seminary. However, there has constantly been a shortage of military-grade bullet-proof jackets for everyone, and they have become near impossible to acquire throughout Europe. A church with links to one of our seminary graduates studied how to acquire the materials and make them. They needed just $20,000 to make the first batch of 100. After their fund-raising hit a plateau, Come Over & Help provided half this amount, which made available 100 jackets to protect the lives of those defending their children’s future on the frontlines (jackets which if purchased would have cost over $100,000). Our seminary administrator Lurii, who was called up to the army, was given one of these jackets.

We have been able to provide petrol and bullet-proof jackets for many volunteers taking medicine and supplies into dangerous cities and help repair their vehicles. Footwear for one man from one of our churches serving in the army, and rucksacks for others. One of our students from Odessa has personally organized aid trips into Russian-occupied territories, where the needs (and risks) are greatest. We were also able to send him a bullet-proof jacket for the drivers most in risk.

When the Kyiv region was liberated one of our churches in Kyiv went to some of the freed villages with humanitarian aid. We were able to make a large contribution to help them acquire supplies. Likewise, we were able to give towards that church’s prison ministry, where funds were needed more than ever.

In the midst of war, some of the most desperately needed pieces of medical equipment are good tourniquets, which can mean the difference between life and death. We have been able to buy and send £6000 worth of tourniquets from the UK to where they are desperately needed within Ukraine.

Over a million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to enemy territory by the Russians. Through one of our own international students, we have been able to help finance the rescuing of some of these Ukrainians by bus from Southern Russia on the long journey back to safety in Europe. This is carried out by churches known to our student.

In all of these cases we decide together as a faculty on the merits of each concrete need that we learn of and then together we decide on the amount to give. Thanks to your generosity we have so far been able to help with any genuine need that has come up. However, realizing that the economic problems (primarily loss of work) of wartime Ukraine will last even beyond any formal end to the war, we are being careful with what you have entrusted us, aiming to still be able to still help people in need in six months’ time and beyond even if outside interest in Ukraine will have waned. These are just a few examples of the ways your money is helping within Ukraine. Thank you for your trust.

Rev. Alister Torrens, President, ERSU Sadly, there is no end in sight. Come Over & Help is thankful for all of your incredible support and outpouring of donations. Please know that 100% of your donations to the Ukraine Relief Fund will go towards this crisis and that the Board and administration of Come Over & Help are responsibly distributing the funds where they are most needed. We are also keeping an eye on the future. What will Ukraine look like when the Russians leave? What will happen when the cold weather arrives in the fall? What will be needed to bring the refugees back home? To all of these questions, we can answer with the Psalmist, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills - from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."

“Thank you. Here I am not afraid, here there are no air raid sirens and I can sleep in peace.”

Lurii, ERSU Seminary Administrator, with his bullet-proof jacket

Mikhail after the operation to remove the shrapnel. His sister and mother were killed in the attack on their car and his father survived but has two broken legs.

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