Reaching Ukraine’s Refugees
Ministry for the students, faculty and staff at Zaporozhye Bible College and Seminary (ZBCS) in Ukraine has been quite different in recent months. That’s because the school is located just a short drive from the Russian border where Ukrainian troops have been battling Russian separatists since last spring.
ZBCS was founded 20 years ago by Joanne Schmidt Mackey, a 1986 graduate of Columbia International University, and her husband Mark. For over eight years the school’s president has been another CIU alumnus, Vladimir Degtyaryov who graduated from CIU in 2001.
With 110 students, Degtyaryov says ZBCS’s mission is “the formation of Christian ministers capable of planting churches or carrying on ministry so that effective and faithful witness to Jesus Christ is heard throughout all Ukraine and beyond." But lately, that “effective and faithful witness” has been to refugees of eastern Ukraine who have been escaping the battles in their hometowns.
Degtyaryov says the refugees “usually arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, in a desperate state emotionally and physically.” He says Christians throughout Zaporozhye and other cities are extending the love of Christ in multiple practical and spiritual ways to these victims of war.
Degtyaryov recently responded to following email exchange describing the situation in his region of the country.
Under what circumstances are you or ZBCS engaging the refugees from eastern Ukraine?
For the most part assistance to the refugees is carried out by the local churches. In that vein, all of our faculty/staff and students are actively involved in the ministries of these churches, and so ZBCS fulfills its ministry through them. The churches, in cooperation with the local authorities, have organized a refugee help center, an effort in which a number of our teachers are taking part.
In what ways do you minister to them practically and spiritually?
Our churches are now constantly raising funds to help maintain refugee aid. Also, some of our graduates, faculty and board members have stepped into key roles in the Zaporozhye region, in both physical/material aid programs to refugees as well as ministry to their spiritual condition.
Do they have spiritual questions regarding what is happening to them and to their country?
Some of the refugees have demonstrated openness to the Gospel and are turning to God, but for the most part these are people in a state of profound stress, sometimes full of hatred, and hoping for nothing more than that this situation will end and they can return home as soon as possible.
Are you concerned the fighting will move west toward your city?
All of us here are, certainly, concerned. It is a potentiality never far from our minds. But I hope that it will not come to this.
Do you get reliable information about what’s happening to the east of you?
The Internet makes more or less reliable information available to us.
Is there a particular portion of Scripture that gives you comfort in uncertain times such as this?
How best can we pray for you, ZBCS and your country?
- That God would preserve Ukraine from Russian aggression in the east and grant peace.
- That He would grant our nation a new spiritual hunger after Him and an awakening.
- That peace will hold in the Zaporozhye region (province) and the other regions that have so far mercifully been spared, especially on the east side of the Dnepr River, including parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk provinces that also have not been embroiled in the conflict.
- For ZBCS's financial health during this crisis.