UPDATE | April 14, 2022
Recently, Matias Radziwiluk, director of WOL Ukraine, shared an update with us:
Even as news channels start to focus on other topics, the war in Ukraine rages on. Every day, children are killed, houses are razed to the ground, families are separated, air sirens sound, and rockets are fired. There is much, much pain. Honestly, it seems as though the worst is yet to come.
It is hard to come to terms with this reality–but our eyes are focused on our Savior. As we celebrate Easter this week, I am reminded of something visual and practical that Jesus left for His church to remember about Him: the bread and the wine. His body and his blood. I never truly understood the significance of those elements represented together, but I have come to understand them now. In one of the first meetings we had with our team when we evacuated from Ukraine, we could not read much, and we could not sing much. What we did is celebrate the Lord’s supper. We broke the bread and drank the wine. We were just sitting, huddled together with our fellow servants, with heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, looking as much as we could upon our Savior.
It was then that the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts to the unity of these symbols–the broken body of Jesus and the blood that He shed. The body of Jesus was beaten, broken, and pierced. He suffered. Why not just death? Simple death? Easy death? Jesus had to suffer through His death. And then came the blood–the blood that gives life. The blood that gives forgiveness. The blood that washes away our sins and makes us white as snow. The blood that gives us righteousness. The blood that gives life could not be shed if the body was not broken. Our eternal life was birthed out of His pain. Our righteousness out of His suffering. I understand that a little better now.
We are suffering. A lot. But Jesus is making something beautiful shine even brighter amongst this dark and evil war: His love and His goodness. He is spreading it across Ukraine and even Europe through His church. Just as it was on Calvary, something good is coming out of something evil, and we want to be a part of that.
The Joy of Liberation and the Horrors of Occupation
Over the last week, God has opened doors and provided all the necessary support for us to continue with our important ministry in Ukraine. The Ukraine Armed Forces have bravely defended the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions. All of them have been liberated from the Russian forces. This liberation opened a unique opportunity for our team to enter villages and towns that had been under Russian occupation for as long as 30 days. The following is a story from the liberated village of Yahidne, in the Chernihiv region, as told by families we evacuated from the town, which is no longer habitable:
“We were under Russian occupation for 25 days. On the first day, when the Russians took over the town, they took all 350 residents of the town and closed us up in the basement of the local school. From 7 PM until 7 AM, we were all locked in the basement, and in the morning, we were allowed to walk outside to get some fresh air and cook some food over a fire. After that, we would be shut in the basement for 2-4 hours during the day as well. The basement was damp and cold, especially in the first weeks–we still had freezing temperatures. There were little babies among the group that could only sleep in the arms of their mothers. They gathered pieces of cardboard or anything they could use, so as not to lie on the cold ground. During the 25 days of Russian occupation, 12 people died in the basement due to a lack of oxygen. Instead of having a proper burial, in the morning, the Russians piled the bodies in a house next door to the school. After a couple of weeks, the mothers begged to run quickly into their homes to get soap and some clothes for the children. They were given a strict amount of time to do this. One of the people was late by one minute and as a punishment, the whole group was closed in the basement for 4 hours.
The Russians had a portable bread oven so they had bread to eat. On one occasion, one of the Russian soldiers, a young conscript who was forced to fight, probably moved by pity, smuggled four loaves of bread into the basement. But during one of the routine inspections of the basement, the bread was found and taken away.
The Russians ran rather unexpectedly, the families were able to go inspect their homes. Sadly, most of their homes were destroyed. The Russian soldiers destroyed all their documents and stole everything they had, phones, valuables, and, in some of the houses, they even stole the kitchen faucets.”
Over the past weeks, our team was able to visit many towns and cities in this region. Our hearts are broken and devastated to see the destruction caused by this war. Once the Russian army was expelled from these areas, they left behind such destruction and horror that it is hard to wrap your head around some of the atrocities they have committed. It is total evil. Our team has been some of the first ones to visit these communities and deliver humanitarian aid, although it is still dangerous to enter many towns because of explosives and mines left behind by the Russians.
In several towns, we were able to visit local pastors and churches that served faithfully during this horrific occupation. It was a special encouragement for them to see fellow Christians delivering help to them, and we also provided them with more food packages and aid to continue to distribute to their community. Overall, we were able to distribute over 30 tons of food and aid to the communities near the Word of Life property, as well as to the devastated communities of Irpin, Bucha, Vorzel, and Borodyanka, where the fiercest battles took place near Kyiv.
Evacuations from Donbas
Over the last week, the Russian forces have been concentrating most of their efforts in the eastern part of Ukraine, in the Donbas region. This will become the center of the battle in the coming weeks. For this reason, and because of the ongoing fights in the region, much of the civilian population has been evacuating. Word of Life has made the 700-kilometer drive to the East to assist in these efforts. Most of our team is operating from the city of Druzhkivka. From that location, they are gathering people and transporting them to the city of Dnipro, where churches are helping evacuate civilians to the west. Over the past days, the team was able to evacuate more than 300 people.
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | April 5, 2022
Below is an update shared with us by Matias Radziwiluk, director of Word of Life Ukraine.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
In Ukraine, every day of ministry looks a little different. As much as we like planning and understanding what our week is going to look like, under the conditions of war, you learn to plan day by day. Our team’s efforts in Chernihiv came to a halt, for the time being; the Russians are attacking the only exit from the city, which has limited all the relief efforts. Pray that it will be liberated soon; reports are coming in stating that approximately 200 civilians are dying every day due to bombings and artillery fire.
Thus far, we have been able to travel into the Sumy region and the liberated city of Tostyanets (and surrounding villages) three times. Our team was able to deliver supplies and share words of hope and comfort for these dear people who have suffered so much under Russian occupation. The Russians have completely destroyed their lives in a matter of days. Every day, our team drove six hours one way in order to reach this area and deliver physical aid and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these precious people.
Over the last week, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have started a counter-offensive in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and the Sumy region. This is an incredible demonstration of the resolve and professionalism of our army, and it is also an answer to prayer. As of April 2, the entire Kyiv region has been liberated from the Russians, as well as most of the Chernihiv and Sumy regions. This is encouraging news, but it has also uncovered the evil and destruction that the Russian army has caused as it occupied these territories for the past month.
As the Russians leave our land, they leave total disaster and horror behind: death, destruction, rape, mass graves, executions. It is too much to handle at times. Our hearts break at what we see and hear. God has given our team the opportunity to be one of the first groups going into villages and towns that were liberated; in some of these towns, we are escorted by the Army, since it’s very dangerous, as the Russians have mined everything as they retreated. Serhii Korobkin, who is coordinating the WOL efforts in Ukraine, shares: “We clearly see that our duty now is to be the first ones to respond to the needs of the poor people whose lives have been destroyed. This is the duty of the Church of Jesus at this moment, and we have to step up to this challenge and be the first ones these people see after being liberated”
As we bring supplies, our team members are able to talk and share with the civilians we are helping. This means hearing about terrible stories and situations these people have had to endure. In one of the villages, Serhii spoke to a lady–her name is Katya. Her daughter Viktorya was kidnapped and is still missing. Please pray for her.
Special Connections: The Body of Christ is United and Shining
Our team on the ground in Ukraine is constantly growing and changing. There is a reason for this–God is moving people and connecting them to do His work in this moment. Our team now consists of our missionaries, Bible Institute grads, pastors, and volunteers that are willing to do anything to let the banner of Jesus be raised high and clear. I cannot help but think that Jesus is looking at His Bride in Ukraine from Heaven right now and smiling. The Church in Ukraine is not perfect, and it is not better than any other Church anywhere else in the world. But, during this incredibly difficult time in Ukraine, we have seen how the Church of Jesus Christ has come together to share in the suffering of our nation and to provide the love and hope that only Jesus can give. God’s people have not remained indifferent and have not looked for comfort or safety. The church has stepped out of its way to receive displaced Ukrainians, to drive long hours across the country to take people to safety and deliver help to people. It has cooked food, gathered humanitarian aid, and has become a shelter of hope amidst so much despair.
One of our team members in Ukraine is a brother from Ireland who loves our Heavenly Father and has come to help in any way possible. This brother has had much experience in his life, including experience with similar situations to those that are taking place in Ukraine. He does not speak Ukrainian or Russian, but he has been driving our vans and helping our team deliver aid. When delivering help to Trostyanest the very first time, an army vehicle came to the church, desperately asking if there was anyone who knew first aid–three people had tripped on a mine in the nearby forest and had been severely injured. Our friend went with the military and was able to provide emergency help to these people until the ambulance arrived. He did not know the language, but he did have the skills to save lives at that moment. This is the beauty of the church working together and shining with the light and love of Jesus Christ.
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 28, 2022
Things have been growing more and more complicated in Ukraine, but glory be to God, our team continues to be able to serve those in need.
So far, our missionaries have evacuated more than 2,100 people to safety. This week, a key part of the evacuation route the team uses was bombed by the Russian forces, which made it much more complicated to shuttle people out of the area. They are no longer able to enter the city of Chernihiv, but have continued to manage evacuations through various means, which, for safety reasons, we cannot disclose.
The team has also been delivering supplies on a regular basis. There have been hundreds of people lining up at the church in Chernihiv to get provisions, as there is no water, no food, no gas, and no electricity in the city. It’s been an incredibly impactful ministry for the team to serve in this way.
It has officially been over a month since the war began. Today, our team was able to take supplies to the city of Trostyanets, which was recently liberated from Russian forces. After 30 days under the control of the oppressors, the town has been completely destroyed. The team brought two tons of food and supplies, but even after distributing everything, there were over 300 people left in line. Tomorrow, the team will make the six-hour drive to bring these citizens the supplies they so desperately need.
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 21, 2022
The following is a testimony from Sergey, one of the eight missionaries who has remained in Ukraine to evacuate civilians and deliver supplies.
God has blessed us during this time by using Word of Life and ministries like it to inspire others to evacuate civilians from dangerous areas. The Kyiv “Almaz” Church has worked with us to organize ten evacuation vehicles, and during the past two weeks, we evacuated around 1200-1300 people.
A couple of days ago, I was tired to the point of exhaustion. Honestly, I was thinking of taking a day off. But, in the morning, I got up and said to our team, “Let’s go.” After we got to Chernihiv, loaded up the vehicles with people, and began the journey back to Kyiv, I started to talk with the people in my van. I said I was very tired and did not want to go today, but I did anyway. One woman, who had come with her children, said, “Last night, a shell hit my house. I gathered the children and all my things, came out, and got into your car. I don’t even know where to go next.” I was wondering how to tell her at that moment that God is near. I told her that God loves her–and He showed it even through those people, like me, who came to evacuate her and her children, despite being exhausted.
A few days before the war began, one boy went to visit his grandmother in Chernihiv. After the invasion, his parents remained in Kyiv, unable to go and get their son. When I brought this boy to the central railway station in Kyiv, his parents hugged their son, cried, and thanked us for allowing them to see their child again.
Over the past few weeks, we have split our team in two. Half of the team remains on our property, serving people, preparing food, and cleaning. The director of our Bible Institute, Alexander Bulay, is responsible for this group. The other half travels with me to Chernihiv in a vehicle column. There is always the danger of shelling, but God has protected us. A couple of days ago, when we were driving to Chernihiv, we saw explosions and fires from afar, but our road was safe. A couple of hours later, on our return trip, we saw traces of shelling–there were artillery shells stuck in the ground only 20 meters from the road. We understood that God had saved our lives.
We are already exhausted. Every day, early in the morning, we wake up, leave, and spend the whole day on the road. I receive about 150-200 evacuation calls daily. We are also looking for places to get food so we can donate it to the church in Chernihiv. Yesterday, a large line (200-300 people) gathered near the local church in order to get provisions. Most of them have enough money to buy the things they need, but there is not a single store open in Chernihiv. There is no bread in the city, no water, no light. Only a few houses have gas; the rest live on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. We’ve transported more than two tons of cargo to Chernihiv–things like food, water, hygiene products, napkins, paper, and more. We bring everything we can so that the local church can distribute it to the people.
I’m grateful that so far, God has kept us safe. He blessed us with a new-to-us van, which was brought directly to us in Kyiv. This is the miracle of God’s provision. We are also glad to see God’s work in people’s hearts. We share the reason why we serve them; we tell how Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came down to earth to save us from our sins. In the same way, we descend into this dangerous territory to save people and bring them out of harm’s way.
Thank you for your prayers and involvement! Thank you for making it possible for us to take these people out of danger. God bless you!
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 18, 2022
Last evening on Fox News at Night, Matias Radziwiluk, the director of Word of Life Ukraine, was able to share about the many opportunities our Ukrainian and European teams have had to serve the Ukrainian people over the past three weeks.
Despite the horrors of the reality of war, it has been humbling and beautiful to see the body of Christ come together in this way. 1 Corinthians 12 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Through the efforts of ministry organizations, missionaries, and everyday people to provide for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those in front of them, we are seeing that unity in action today more than ever.
Yesterday, within Ukraine, our team was able to deliver over two tons of supplies to those in need and evacuate 55 civilians from Chernihiv. Due to the fact that they are not able to use roads to get in and out of the area, their vehicles have been breaking down on a nearly daily basis. Yesterday, one vehicle broke down in a particularly dangerous area on the journey—but God protected the team, and they were able to escape safely.
It has become unsafe to host evacuees on our property, so the missionaries have been working with different churches across Kyiv to provide shelter for these precious people before they continue on their journey out of Ukraine.
Our missionaries in Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and our displaced Ukrainian team continue to serve those in need and provide food, shelter, and most importantly, the hope of Jesus Christ with everyone they come in contact with.
“Little moments of joy amidst this darkness. Pictured is one of our second-year Bible Institute students, Katya, taking her three siblings to safety. Their journey started when they left their home’s basement, which was under constant shelling, to catch an evacuation train to the west. They were stalled with document challenges that seemed impossible to resolve, but finally they are in Romania, on their way to our WOL property. Most importantly… with a smile.”
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 16, 2022
Our missionaries in Ukraine and the surrounding countries continue to serve in various capacities.
In Ukraine, the eight men who remained behind have continued to shuttle citizens from the Chernihiv area. Over the weekend, they were able to evacuate 137 men, women, and children. The team was also able to lead a convoy of seven cars from Chernihiv to Kyiv—the drivers didn’t know the way to go, as normal routes have been cut off. Between those seven cars, the team was able to lead 75 people to safety.
Yesterday, the team made another trip to Chernihiv and evacuated 200 more civilians. Most of the evacuees spent the past few weeks sheltering in frigid basements in order to stay safe. When they arrived at our property outside Kyiv, they were given warm food, warm beds, and most importantly, the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with them. It’s incredible to see our missionaries serving the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the Ukrainian people.
Our teams in Eastern Europe continue to serve displaced Ukrainians on our properties. In Poland, they have had people coming in and out nearly every day—at one point, they had 130 Ukrainians on their property. As people find a more permanent place to stay, they’ve been leaving, only for more Ukrainians to come and stay while they regroup and figure out their next steps.
In Romania, our property is completely full. Of the 70 people staying there, most are connected with Word of Life Ukraine in some way. Last week, ten Ukrainian missionaries who were staying at Word of Life Hungary joined the Romanian team in order to translate and provide support; our Romanian team is also connecting and coordinating with different organizations and churches that desire to provide assistance. The team has been holding morning and evening prayer times with singing and Scripture reading—this has seemed to bring great comfort to the displaced Ukrainians, even those who are not Christians. These gatherings have brought about many opportunities to share the gospel with and minister to these precious people.
Ukrainian families are seeking shelter at the Word of Life property in Hungary nearly every day. Many of these families only stay for a day or two before moving on to Germany or Poland. Much of our Ukraine team, however, is still there, working on resolving Visa issues and providing support to the Ukrainian missionary wife who is hospitalized for complications with her pregnancy. Please continue to pray for her, her husband—who is still working to evacuate citizens with the other men in Ukraine—and for the team as they care for her.
The Word of Life team in the Czech Republic is working closely with the local authorities and has already received over 110 people from Ukraine, mostly groups. One of the missionaries from WOL Ukraine and a Bible Institute graduate have joined them on the property to help serve and translate, and several more Ukrainian missionaries will soon join them. The team in the Czech Republic has decided to open more space on their property in order to host more displaced Ukrainians for longer periods of time.
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 10, 2022
We received this update from Matias, director of WOL Ukraine, today:
After two days of evacuations in the city of Chernihiv, the reality of war has started to settle in.
Yesterday, our team of missionaries was joined by a local pastor—whose wife we evacuated to WOL Romania—and another fellow believer, who heard that we were evacuating people from the north and decided to join our convoy with his van. Before the team started making their way north (a trip that normally takes about one and a half hours), they stopped by a local bakery that has been cooking food for those in need. The bakery is run by Andriy Vasylenko, a good friend and fellow believer. Andriy and his wife, Arenda, stayed in Ukraine to serve the people in any way they could. They are also founders of a charity that educates and empowers children with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. The Vasylenkos were able to bring humanitarian aid from the Netherlands, and our team packed the vans with food and necessities to help those in Chernihiv.
Unfortunately, not far into their journey north, the Armed Forces of Ukraine warned them that today was going to be a “heated” day in the area, and they suggested the team not make the trip. It was too dangerous. We are grateful for the good spirit and communication with our Army, and thanks to their recommendation, the team turned in another direction.
Thankfully, they were close to a local church in the area and were able to bless them with all the supplies they were taking north. About two hours later, a column of nearly 30 Russian units entered the area our team decided to turn back from. The column was eventually completely destroyed by the Ukraine Armed Forces. God’s protection in this case is so evident.
Pray for those remaining in Chernihiv; there are still more than 300 people awaiting evacuation organized by the Evangelical Churches and Word of Life. We don’t know if we will be able to get there. Still, we were able to provide shelter and transport to over 130 dear Ukrainians from all walks of life.
During the first evacuation, we helped two moms with their newborn babies get out directly from the maternity hospital. There are elderly people, young families, children, and people with disabilities. All of them were able to hear and see the love of Jesus that is demonstrated through our brave men of God who are taking care of them during these troubled times.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring to our men in Ukraine. We do know that God is guiding their every step. They have every reason, humanly speaking, to run to refuge—but instead, they are risking their lives for others, every day. That looks a lot like Jesus to me.
Our WOL Ukraine team is spread across Europe at the moment, but they are all engaged in serving the constant flow of pilgrims from Ukraine.
Part of our team is in Romania, where they are working tirelessly with our Romanian missionaries providing shelter on our property there for over 60 Ukrainians. Part of our team is still located in WOL Hungary, where we are waiting to resolve some document issues for some team members and serving others who need special care during this time.
One of our missionary wives is six months pregnant and has had complications leading to hospitalization. She is being taken good care of and our staff ladies are visiting her every day and helping with everything they can. Her husband remains in Ukraine.
We also have part of our team in Italy. One of our staff kids, little Simeon, needed medical assistance that could only be provided in that country. We praise God that Tony, his father, was able to make it out of Ukraine and will soon join them there. It’s an answer to prayer that the whole family will be together again. Pray for the medical procedures and assistance that Simeon in getting.
We are grateful for the colossal efforts that our teams in WOL Poland and WOL Czechia are making to assist and provide refuge for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in need. On a daily basis, we are assisting people in their “pilgrimage” towards Western Europe. Daily, we are on the phone, making connections and trying to find solutions to all sorts of situations presented by this difficult time.
I’ve been looking at what is happening and seeing the body of Christ work in a selfless, devoted, and loving way. Whether it’s our student, Denis, in Western Ukraine, who has organized the evacuation of over 200 people towards safety, or our former student Vlad, who has only slept in a bed once during the past week as he drives people from Poland to various locations in Europe, or Mark, in Prague, who is finding homes and places for people to stay, or Olya, who is constantly connecting people and bringing humanitarian help to Ukraine… It’s beautiful. It’s attractive. It’s the beauty of Christ that is shining like never before in Eastern Europe.
In this dark hour, as this bright light shines, there is a One who is becoming more and more visible: Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ is shining, and that is what brings us hope and peace. Our hearts are broken, and our minds are wounded. But our faith is growing, and our calling is deepened. We are blessed. I want to thank every single person that is praying for Ukraine. I want to thank every person that is giving toward the work in Ukraine. Your faith in action is bringing brilliant glory to God.
After sharing all this with us, Matias also sent the testimony of a Ukrainian student who graduated from the Ukraine Bible Institute in 2021. This is what she had to say:
“Tomorrow, there is a van leaving for Germany from my city in the Donbass region, which is almost encircled by enemy forces. There are two free seats waiting for me and my sister. Everything is arranged for us to relocate to Switzerland.
These last three days have been the hardest. I have been struggling in my mind; I wasn’t sure what the right decision would be: to stay here, or to leave? At some points, the struggle has been too much for me. All my brothers and the rest of my family supported the idea of my departure, so that I didn’t have to go through any more of this horrible war. They think that I would be better off in Switzerland. However, I decided to stay.
I listened to the Voice that speaks so quietly—His Voice. I remembered all the things I learned and heard at Word of Life, and all the promises I made to Him. I remember how last summer, before we started camp, I threw a stick in the fire, symbolizing my promise to God that I want to “burn” for Jesus. This is my attitude now; I am ready to go in the fire. I understand that this is the place and now is the time for me to be here to work and to serve.
I decided that even if I never ever get to Switzerland, or get a good education or a comfortable life, I will not regret it. Because, if I do what Jesus is calling me to do now, I will be the happiest person in the world. I’ve come to understand that I can either find myself in the coolest country in the world and still be totally unsatisfied, or I can stay here, in the midst of explosions and bombings and fear, and be the happiest person in the world, because I am doing what I should be doing. I am not scared at all now, because I know the One who goes ahead of me.”
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 8, 2022
The eight WOL missionaries remaining in Ukraine continue to serve alongside churches to evacuate people and deliver food and supplies to those in need. Currently, the team is working north of Kyiv to evacuate citizens in immediate danger from the Russian onslaught. Just yesterday, they made it to a checkpoint with seven vanloads of people, but after waiting several hours for permission to cross, they had to turn around, return to the church, and spend the night there.
Despite the challenges, believers across Ukraine continue to have incredible, humbling faith in Jesus Christ. Before they fell asleep, the group sang hymns together and prayed. Their hope rests confidently in the Lord, and this time of heartbreak and trial has proven—over and over—God’s divine protection and provision in their lives. It’s amazing to see.
Across Eastern Europe, God has given the opportunity for Word of Life campuses to be used as housing for displaced Ukrainians. In Hungary, the team is serving over 60 Ukrainians, aside from the 14 members of the WOL Ukraine team—mostly women and children—who were evacuated early on. WOL Czech Republic is taking around 50 Ukrainians at a time, and part of the WOL Ukraine team has gone to WOL Romania in order to prepare the property and serve displaced people there.
At Word of Life Poland, we have seen an incredible outpouring of love from the Polish people as they seek to serve their Ukrainian brothers and sisters. One company gave 50 mattresses to the team, which created the opportunity to care for more displaced people. The missionaries opened the unfinished attic section of their camp building, laid down carpet, put up dividers, laid down the new mattresses, and promptly brought in as many displaced people as they could house.
Another company offered to do laundry for the Polish team, as the laundry services on the property are not enough to accommodate the influx of Ukrainians—even Starbucks gave the team money to support their efforts. As of today, there are 112 Ukrainians staying on property at Word of Life Poland. Glory be to God.
Through it all, the name of Jesus Christ is being glorified across Ukraine and the rest of Europe through the hands-on service of pastors, missionaries, and everyday believers as they tirelessly work to help wherever they can.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
UPDATE | March 6, 2022
The eight Word of Life missionaries remaining in Ukraine continue to deliver supplies and evacuate women, children, and the elderly from Kyiv. Thus far, they have been able to transport over 140 people to the border–including, just this morning, 40 adults, 18 children, and 2 newborns. The group has also been able to deliver countless vanloads of supplies to those who remain behind and provide meals for groups of Ukrainians on their way to the border. Pastors, church members, and missionaries are rallying together in droves, ready to pitch in wherever they can.
One recent example occurred when Word of Life’s men were out delivering food. One of our former missionaries, who now serves as a pastor in a local church, was preparing to bring supplies to church members in need—but he had no transport to deliver them. A man who this pastor had invited to a family night and a few events at their church called him out of the blue and said, “I heard you’re still in town—do you need any help? I have a car.” Together, they loaded up this gentleman’s car and delivered supplies to family members, church members, and those in need. It was an amazing answer to prayer.
This incredible example of God’s provision is just one story out of many. Across Ukraine, members of the church are holding fast to the hope of Jesus Christ and mobilizing to serve Him and their country. Christians outside Ukraine are also hard at work, ministering to evacuees as they cross the border, and providing them with food and shelter.
At this point, Word of Life ministries across Eastern Europe are opening their doors to receive Ukrainians and are also shuttling them from the border to their properties. Several of these locations have unfinished spaces, but they are converting every inch possible to make more room for more evacuees. Currently, Word of Life Poland, Word of Life Hungary, Word of Life Czech Republic, and Word of Life Romania are hosting these displaced people on their properties. Several other Word of Life ministries across Europe are also preparing to receive people as the need arises.
One thing we have seen highlighted repeatedly throughout this terrible conflict is the God-given strength our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are finding as they rest in His enduring promises. The Lord is faithful, unchanging, and will never turn His back on His people—we know because He proved it on the cross.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | March 3, 2022
On a Zoom call with a leader in the US, Matias described the current state of his team both in Ukraine and across the border.
As individuals and families cross the border and seek refuge in neighboring countries, many are being received directly into homes by benevolent strangers waiting at the border to take them in. However, as the need becomes greater and time passes, restrictions are beginning to roll out in some countries. For example, individuals may only leave Ukraine and enter Romania with proof of where they will be staying or who is hosting them.
As this reality settles in, Word of Life properties in Europe are preparing to welcome Ukrainians who cannot stay with their hosts for more than a few days or who have nowhere to go when they arrive at the border.
Currently, our Ukrainian staff still in Hungary is actively mobilizing to head to our WOL property in Romania. This property will become their home base, where they can focus on serving and welcoming Ukrainians as the need in Romania increases. As of this week, we are preparing to send a small group (about nine individuals) who have the skills and expertise necessary to get the property ready for others. While this happens, Matias hopes to travel to neighboring countries to assess the needs of the displaced people there. As we begin to get a clearer picture of the crisis and the Lord reveals needs that we can help meet, we will mobilize accordingly.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, eight men from our staff/student body loaded up vans and made the trip from the western border back to the property outside of Kyiv. Our vans were filled with food and supplies donated by churches in the area–on the trip back to the property, the men stopped at military hospitals and other locations that requested re-supplying.
In the face of terror, the Ukrainian spirit has created a situation no one could have anticipated: there are more volunteers to fight than there are guns and munitions available. As a result, Ukrainians are mobilizing en masse for all sorts of humanitarian efforts. Our men will focus on meeting the needs of those around them in the ways that we are uniquely privileged to do during this time. Specifically, we have access to food and other resources that are scarce. The men will focus their energy on meeting physical needs of those around them, coordinating transportation for families who seek a way to the border in order to cross over to safety, and spiritually ministering to those left behind.
At the time of this posting, the men have just completed the treacherous drive back to Kyiv, but they won’t stay long. Soon after their arrival, they will load up their van with women, children, and the elderly, and drive them to a rallying point about 100 miles away, where they will meet other believers who will assist them in evacuating. Then, the team will once more fill the van with supplies and head back to Kyiv. Over and over, back and forth, as many times as needed.
Our team hasn’t made the dangerous trip back towards the capital reluctantly–they are scared for sure, but there’s a spirit that goes beyond that; they have joy and peace and conviction. No one is forcing them to go back, they do so gladly.
Matias shared an emotional plea for us not to glorify our men. He says, “These men are heroes, there isn’t another word for it. But everyone who has stayed behind, from those working in shelters, those just trying to stay alive, those serving in military hospitals, those feeding the others – they’re all heroes. Our missionaries aren’t the exception.”
This morning, a random woman saw Sergey, our Associate Director, purchasing food and supplies at a store. “Where are you taking those supplies?” she asked. “To Kyiv” said Sergey. She immediately pulled out cash and handed it to him to purchase even more. Not long after, another stranger heard where they were headed and offered his entire van load of food and supplies to take with them.
There is hope to be found in what we are watching unfold in the hearts of the Ukrainian people as they face this crisis. But even more so in the hearts of believers. Matias shared several text messages and testimonies of believers facing grave danger empowered by the hope of Jesus. When asked about how he was feeling, being far from his home and caring for his team in Hungary, he said:
“We’re not safe – no one we love is safe. There are still people back home. We’re not detached from what is happening. right now we’re mentally struggling to reconcile all of the things we’re feeling and thinking. Our desire for safety, the lack of control, our desire to trust God, our desire to serve others, our desire for it all to end… But we almost can’t help but think about eternity when we start to fear. We are in a position where we truly feel that the only answer is Christ. That He is the only One that we can run to. And it sounds like a cliche, but we feel it more deeply than we ever have.”
As the days pass and events unfold, we will continue to keep you updated on how you can specifically pray for and support those who have fled the war and those who remain in Ukraine. For now, we’ll leave you with a text message Matias sent to a student who reached out to him, afraid and hiding in the midst of gunfire:
“I’m praying for you. Just think about Jesus. Jesus is thinking about you. Do you know that? You’re in his thoughts right now. He is so powerful. He can do anything. And you know what – you will never die. You have already won. Just look at Christ.”
Please, Continue to Pray
UPDATE | Feb. 25, 2022
This morning, after a night full of paperwork and planning, most of our staff crossed the border into Hungary. The line to cross was long and slow, but our team has made it safely. Our group of about 50 people was primarily made up of women and children. The Ukrainian men were not allowed to leave the country, which made a heartbreaking departure even more traumatic as families and friends were separated at the border. Our staff men who had to remain have courageously and compassionately mobilized to help others cross. They are committed to staying behind and serving their country by helping others to safety.
Word of Life Hungary sent a bus to the border, where they have picked up those of our Ukrainian team who were able to cross and are now taking them to our campus there.
The Word of Life Ukraine property is not far from the capital city of Kyiv, which is being stormed by the Russian military at this very moment. While the situation develops, our men will remain at a small church near the border.
There is no word on how long these families will be separated or what will come of the next few days – but we are profoundly thankful for the hearts of our Ukrainian team who are bravely and faithfully facing the unknown future and entrusting it to a faithful God.