Ukraine crisis affects UMC congregations

July 30, 2014

Ukraine: In the Midst of Conflict, Relief -

Missionary John Calhoun offers an update on the political crisis in the Ukraine and how local United Methodist congregations are bringing relief to families displaced by the conflict. Calhoun serves in Kiev (Kyiv) in ministry with The United Methodist Church in Ukraine. 

Dear partner churches and friends,

Greetings and peace to you from The United Methodist Church in Ukraine.

As you are aware, it has been an extremely difficult week for the people of Ukraine.  The shooting down of a civilian aircraft over eastern Ukraine killed 298 innocent people from 10 countries.  The intense fighting between Ukrainian military forces and separatist rebels in the region leaves many dead and hundreds displaced each day. Recent ceasefires have been short-lived, and a diplomatic path away from violence and toward peace remains elusive.

The eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk has been the site of particularly intense battles in recent days.  A lay leader of the local UMC congregation in Luhansk reports that church members are safe, but that more than half of the members have fled the city, seeking shelter among relatives and friends outside the conflict zone.

Local UMC congregations in other parts of Ukraine and in western Russia are helping the displaced in ways large and small, including raising funds for relief efforts in eastern Ukraine and providing shelter and food to recent arrivals from the conflict zone.

In Kyiv, our local congregations have expanded their ministry to persons displaced by the conflict.  Last week, the UMC in Ukraine received a grant from UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to provide emergency food assistance to families who have fled Crimea in recent months and taken shelter in a refugee center in Kyiv.

Update from Kyiv

As we shared in our last email update, our ministry in Kyiv has been blessed by the service of Nazar Yatsyshyn, a Global Ministries’ Mission Fellow and Ukrainian citizen who represents our ministry at the refugee center in Kyiv housing persons displaced from Crimea and, more recently, eastern Ukraine.

Nazar has just written this update from Kyiv:

Over the past half a year it is hard to find a day when you woke up without anxiety about the events in your country.  Every day I keep asking myself: “How long will this last?”

In the meantime, the refugee center we are working with in Kyiv has received new people, mainly from eastern Ukraine, making the total number of residents up to 160 people.  According to the United Nations, the total number of persons displaced by the crisis has reached 100,000.  Newly arrived persons to our center are from Donetsk; some of them were held hostage by the terrorists, but later freed.

The UMC in Ukraine has received a grant from UMCOR to help meet the needs of the Kyiv refugee center, in particular with food supplies.  Some people I spoke with found it ‘strange’ (in a good way) that some far away church organization based in America is willing to support them.  My personal hope is that through this, these people will be able to see Jesus’ love from us, and perhaps would be willing to know more about it.

As life settles down, we offer opportunities to people in learning English by providing personal lessons, but also we’ve started a movie club, where we watch different movies in English with subtitles and a short discussion afterwards.  It’s interesting to point out that though it may seem very usual, for many people it is in fact a new thing.  As it was mentioned previously, many people are suffering from so-called ‘victim syndrome,’ and that is the reason why many of them might have less initiative toward their lives.  We hope these movie nights will help some of them to become more confident in expressing their opinions, even being more ambitious.

Among other good news, we have had two babies born, and a couple getting married.  It was a small celebration, but very well attended, as all of the people live together.  It is important that in this time of war, grief and sorrow, we also celebrate new life.

I would like to ask you to continue praying for our ministry and the situation in general.  We are seeing great things happening in Ukraine; I believe it is meant to be so.  God will use this situation for His glory and Kingdom.

In the midst of the chaos, leaders and members of the UMC in Ukraine are grateful for your ongoing prayers and support.  Thanks to your ever-present spiritual witness, they know that they are not alone in their suffering, and that God hears the prayers of United Methodists around the world.

On behalf of the UMC in Ukraine, I invite you to make a financial donation in support of our church’s outreach to those affected by the ongoing conflict and displacement.  Fully, 100 percent of your funds will be used to meet emerging humanitarian and spiritual needs: purchase additional food supplies for Crimeans temporarily living in Kyiv, offer shelter and food to newly displaced families from eastern Ukraine, procure books and school supplies for needy children, and grant spiritual support to those seeking comfort and solace.  Specific decisions about how donations may be used will be taken in consultation with our bishop and local church pastors and lay leaders, as this crisis continues to unfold in eastern Ukraine.

As always, donations may be given online via The Advance to Eurasia Mission Initiative – Ukraine and Moldova, Advance Project #14053A,  and designate your gift “Ukraine Emergency.”

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.  Please be in touch with me at any time for more information about the ministry of the UMC in Ukraine.

Yours in Christ,



Rev. John Calhoun

Missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries, serving in partnership with The United Methodist Church, Kyiv, Ukraine