One Year Later: Remembering Southern Baptists’ Relief Efforts in Ukraine

By Tessa Sanchez and Natalie Sarrett

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Ukraine had been hearing rumors of war for the better part of a year by the time Russia launched their invasion in early 2022.

IMB missionary Dan Upchurch leads a Bible study for Ukrainian refugees in a Polish Baptist Church. The church has been actively involved in meeting the needs of refugees. Upchurch shares 2 Corinthians 4:9-10 and talks about how God does not leave his people in times of persecution. IMB Photo

What they weren’t prepared for was the devastating aftermath that followed.

Less than a month after their emergency evacuation, more than 7,000 civilians had already been killed, with thousands more injured. Entire cities were bombed into oblivion.

One year later, it still continues. It’s a testament to the incredible resolve and resilience of the Ukrainian people. It is nothing short of a miracle that, despite—maybe because of—these horrific circumstances, the Ukrainian church has grown.

Ukrainian pastor Anton Rozvodovskiy poses with supplies from a Makro store, a European equivalent to Costco. Missionaries used special gifts given by Southern Baptists to purchase provisions for a ministry Rozvodovskiy runs that serves mentally and physically handicapped people in Ukraine. Rozvodovskiy drove for more than 15 hours to Poland to stock up. IMB Photo

As Ukrainian Christian refugees sought safety in neighboring countries, they brought their hope in Jesus with them, spreading the gospel.

Since the war began, Southern Baptists have consistently supported the Ukrainian people through Send Relief projects, IMB missionaries and other local partners in the region.

These missionaries and Send Relief partners are leading compassion ministry projects in Ukraine – and they are there to stay. This ministry work involves delivering provisions to physically and mentally handicapped people still stranded in the country, leading worship services in community centers-turned-churches, facilitating Bible studies in basements and bomb shelters, hosting mobile medical clinics, providing theological education to Ukrainian pastors and making dangerous trips into Ukraine to oversee relief operations.

IMB missionary Mike Domke talks with the pastor of Kyiv International Church about how Send Relief funds are helping with outreach ministry he and his church are involved with in the capital.

Looking Back

In the first few months of the war, Send Relief and IMB ministry efforts mostly focused on providing survivors with food, supplies, shelter and emotional and spiritual care. As the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, Baptist churches across multiple countries continued to take refugee families in and welcome them into their congregations.

By attending Christian camps, Ukrainian refugee children were able to reclaim some of the childhood innocence they had lost. IMB missionaries and Send Relief partners attempted to imbue a sense of celebration back into the community by hosting Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, which provided much-needed time for community care and a distraction from the collective trauma.

To get Ukrainian refugees and responding churches through the winter, gifts to Send Relief have provided generators and winter clothing to families in desperate need, bringing warmth to thousands.

A volunteer serves soup to a Ukrainian refugee at the Baptist Church of Chelms, Poland. The church’s members and volunteers from the small town near a Ukraine border crossing have rallied to provide food, hot meals and showers, clothing and beds to the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war-torn nation. In February 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine causing a massive movement of refugees into bordering nations and internally displacing thousands. IMB Photo

The power of the gospel and generosity of these believers eventually changed lives.

Send Relief has facilitated 111 Ukrainian relief projects since February 2022, offering respite to refugees in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova and 16 other countries around the globe. Volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief made the trans-Atlantic journey to serve along the border of Ukraine.

In short, Southern Baptist generosity knew no bounds. Gifts to Ukraine relief thus far have totaled $12.9 million, with $10 million given to Send Relief and $2.9 million given to the IMB. After IMB missionaries developed digital engagement strategies to reach Ukrainians both inside and outside the country, the reach has been astronomical, with more than 22.5 million people visiting the website since its launch.

Russ Wise, a volunteer with a Southern Baptist Disaster Response team, offers water and snacks to Ukrainian children coming across the border into Romania. Russ attends Vertical Church in Yuma, California. SBDR and Send Relief teams served Ukrainian refugees crossing the border at Siret, Romania, by handing out snacks, water and hot drinks and providing cell phone charging stations. The station was originally started by the Romanian Baptists who were some of the first to respond to those Ukrainians crossing the border after the war started. IMB Photo

Looking Forward

IMB president Paul Chitwood and missionaries serving in Europe meet with Henryk Skrzypkowski, pastor of Baptist Church of Chelm, Poland, to discuss IMB and Send Relief strategies to provide aid during the Russia-Ukraine war. The church’s sanctuary has been converted into a makeshift shelter with dozens of beds. The church’s members and volunteers from the small town near a Ukraine border crossing have rallied to provide food, clothing, showers and beds to the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war-torn nation. IMB Photo

Send Relief partners and IMB missionaries continue to facilitate refugee relief centers to meet physical needs and spread the hope of Christ alongside national partners by leading Bible studies, hosting mobile medical clinics, partnering with local church planters and teaching classes at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary.

Only the Lord knows how long the war will last. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but we know Jesus’ love will last well beyond. If you would like to help operations on the ground in Ukraine continue, give below today.

Tessa Sanchez writes for the IMB. Natalie Sarrett is a writer for Send Relief.

Published February 23, 2023

Tessa Sanchez and Natalie Sarrett