As BREADtrust works through the Ukrainian churches, a vital part of what we do is supporting and encouraging those churches, as part of the world wide family of God. With all of our linked churches based inside the war zone, 2014 was a year of significant change. Evangelical protestant churches were particularly targeted by the separatists, meaning that many of the pastors had to flee for their own safety. The highlighted towns and cities on the map below show where pastors and members of their congregations have fled to. As well as supporting the distribution of humanitarian aid inside the war zone, those pastors and believers are now planting new churches in the places they now live. God is at work building his Kingdom in even the darkest of situations.
Igor and Tanya have taken on the role of overseeing the dispersed congregations. Supporting and encouraging this suddenly enlarged network of churches brings new challenges. However, in the midst of this suffering and difficulty, there is some good news. The church leaders that we work with have taken bold decisions and personal risks to keep themselves involved with their local communities and help the poor in whatever way they can. They have been risking their lives to take food and medical supplies to civilians caught up in the conflict zone, unable to flee. BREADtrust has been sending them gifts to allow them to do this more effectively.
The vision to ‘Share your bread with the hungry’ is at the heart of BREADtrust’s work in Ukraine. In a country with significant numbers of people in extreme poverty there is a real ongoing need for basic food provisions. This is especially true in the eastern war zone which is under the control of pro-Russian separatists and in which the economy has been severely hit by the ongoing civil war. Basics food supplies are very expensive, wages are low, pensions have been cut and many are unemployed. Our local church partners in the eastern war zone focus significantly on feeding programmes in the form of food parcels and the provision of hot meals to the most vulnerable. Many of those being helped have also been drawn into the life and faith of the churches involved.
The work of BREADtrust is based on partnership with local churches. Our project co-ordinators seek to visit them regularly and establish longterm friendships with them and their leaders. We work through trusted partners. A team from BREADtrust visits Ukraine at least once a year and seeks to monitor what is happening on the ground. Our teams also seek to encourage the churches in whatever ways are possible. We are aware of the huge challenges they face in living out an effective Christian life in a complex, needy and economically divided country. Our partner churches are now spread across the whole country and new churches have been planted recently by internally displaced refugees from the east in other parts of the country. From time to time we gather church leaders to encourage and support them.
Drug and alcohol addictions are endemic in Ukraine. Countless lives are ruined by addictive lifestyles. For many years BREADtrust has been assisting our partner churches in the establishment and development of rehabilitation centres. In this way churches have provided individuals with a place to live, a mentoring programme, practical work, participation on church life and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Sometimes we have enabled our partner churches to buy small plots of agricultural land to develop as a place of work for recovering addicts and a basis for financial self-sufficiency for the projects.
There are well over one million internally displaced refugees in Ukraine. Almost all of them became refugees after being forced to flee their homes in the eastern war zone and Crimea. They have moved to other parts of Ukraine since the civil war broke out in 2014. Many have faced severe difficulties finding homes, finding work and rebuilding their broken lives. There are groups of refugees all over the country. BREADtrust is now focused on helping refugees wherever we can through our partnership with local churches in different parts of the country. Our partner churches are often helping individual families or working in community centres for refugees.