Igor Bandura, vice president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, described the situation in Ukraine as “frightening” and “devastating,” during a Feb. 24 Zoom consultation.

“It is like a big, black hole that tried to absorb your soul and destroy you completely,” he said. “In this time, we feel helpless. You feel like everything you lived for, can be quickly destroyed. … It takes time to bring your mind and heart back to the work of God.”

Nearly 2,400 churches, with over 125,000 in total membership, are affiliated with the Baptist union in Ukraine. It is one of 59 member unions that are part of the European Baptist Federation, which organized the call that was facilitated by EBF General Secretary Alan Donaldson.

Bandura thanked everyone for attending, noting that he was grateful for all the prayers, expressions of support and inquiries about how to provide assistance. He explained that the virtual consultation was the best way to share information, as he has not been able to respond individually to everyone.

He requested continued prayer and provided on-the-ground insight and information about initial plans to help displaced Ukrainian Baptists during the call attended by 75 global Baptists.

Ukrainians have been praying for peace, he said, hoping that providing humanitarian aid to displaced citizens would not be necessary. Despite these prayers and the efforts of many world leaders to address the situation through diplomacy, “the bigger war” has come to the nation.

Calling the situation an “existential threat” to Ukraine, Bandura explained that this conflict “is about our right to be a nation, to be a people” because Putin has said “there is no such a country as Ukraine … there is no such people as Ukrainians.”

The attacks came suddenly, he said, with rockets hitting multiple targets. People have begun leaving the parts of the country where the Russian military is located and where rocket attacks have occurred.

One rocket landed 100 metres from a children’s shelter in Odessa run by a Baptist church at which Bandura previously served as pastor, he said. No one was injured at the shelter, which houses around 60 children, but it is uncertain whether it will be possible to relocate the children and adults to a safer location.

“When they were frightened, what they did today,” Bandura said, “was they printed, ‘Be careful, there are orphans living here,’ and put [these signs] on each window” so that soldiers would know it is an orphanage.

The Ukrainian Baptist Union plans to focus its initial assistance on around 2,500 Baptists it anticipates will be displaced by the conflict and who will not have friends or family to whom they can turn for help.

The number of people in need is expected to grow as the conflict continues and aid efforts by the union will expand as funding and supplies are available.

To meet the need, Bandura shared that the union hopes to create several centers at which received supplies can be stored and from which they can be distributed. They’re also hoping to create temporary shelters at 8-10 Baptist churches where displaced persons can obtain a night’s sleep, a shower, a meal and basic supplies.

Baptist World Alliance, of which EBF is one of six regional fellowships, has created a webpage on which it will provide updates as they are available and through which donations to support Ukraine relief efforts can be made.

Hungarian Baptist Aid’s David Gál noted that HBA will be sending both supplies and financial support, while EBF said it would be issuing an appeal to its member bodies for humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

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