Ukrainian Mennonite Brethren celebrate Christmas

Stoves provide warmth and hope and are "treasured" by recipients

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MB Foundation and Multiply have raised funds to purchase stoves to be distributed in Ukraine. The cold winter months combined with a loss of electricity and infrastructure could have catastrophic consequences. Photo: Multiply

December reports from Mennonite Brethren in Ukraine tell of efforts to warm bodies and heal hearts as Ukrainians face a winter crisis.

A Dec. 12, 2022, TIME magazine report states, “At any given moment at least two and as many as 10 million Ukrainians have no power, heating or water because Russia is systematically targeting Ukraine’s utilities with rocket and drone strikes. Although Ukrainian electrical technicians are heroically repairing the damage as fast as possible, absent hundreds of millions of dollars and urgent equipment donations, many Ukrainians could die in the next few months.”

Stoves arrive 

It is because of this urgent need that MB Foundation set the goal of raising funds in December 2022 to purchase 100 wood burning stoves for the Association of MB Churches in Ukraine (AMBC). The first week of January 2023, MB Foundation president and CEO Jon Wiebe reported the goal was exceeded.

This Ukrainian family lives on the street — so that is where their stove is. Photo: MB Foundation

“We will be able to provide 100 wood burning stoves for our MB family in Ukraine and will be sending another $25,000 designated for emergency relief and refugee assistance for AMBCU from the relief fund,” Wiebe writes in an email.  “Praise the Lord for answered prayer and a generous community.”

Wiebe was contacted in November by Roman Rakuba, AMBC chair, requesting stoves.

“In faith I asked Mission Eurasia to go ahead and start supplying these stoves, believing that funds would be raised and the need would be met,” Wiebe says.

MB Foundation is partnering with Mission Eurasia to provide relief supplies to Ukraine and since the war began the stewardship ministry has been collecting funds that are forwarded to AMBC.

Rakuba notified Wiebe on Dec. 20 that the first 28 stoves had been received and sent to the “most difficult” locations. Rakuba provided photos of recent stove deliveries that show one family that lives on the street and uses their stove in the open and another family that lives near the front lines.

Christmas relief efforts offer hope

Despite the loss of critical infrastructure facilities, Christmas relief efforts in Zaporizhzhia and other locations continued, with thousands of gift packages distributed to churches that host events for displaced children.

“The Give Hope project put many gifts of sweets, toys, children’s Bibles—and, above all, hope—into the hands of those struggling with the hardships of war,” Rakhuba says in a report to Multiply, the U.S. and Canadian MB mission agency.

A Dec. 22, 2022, update posted on the Multiply website says that wood-fired metal stoves are treasured by residents of those cities on the front line of the conflict that have been without electricity, heat and gas for a long time. One such settlement is Shevchenko in the Donetsk region where 60 to 70 children, many of whom are refugees, come to the church for children’s meetings.

In mid-December, Johann Matthies, Multiply’s regional team leader for Europe and Central Asia, traveled to Ukraine from Germany. Meeting up with MB pastors Oleksii M. and Sergei F., he and others unloaded their valuable cargo from their van into pastors’ vehicles for transport via icy winter roads.

They delivered five generators, five electro-heaters, thermo-underwear, Embrace Ukraine relief bags and more to various orphanages, churches and homes for the elderly. They returned to Germany with a refugee family of six, stopping at a Mennonite church in Regensburg to collect a load of comforters for the next relief trip, planned for December 29.

Matthies writes: “A generator supplied by Tabernacle Church in Odessa has allowed for the creation of what is being called, ‘A Point of Unbending’ in the local church. People from the community can come to the church to warm up, charge their devices, get a hot soup or tea and receive prayer and words of encouragement.”

MB leaders are also involved in caring for the emotional and spiritual well-being of families traumatized by the war.

New Hope Center in Zaporizhzhya hosted its first therapeutic retreat in the Carpathian Mountains. Photo: Multiply

Retreats serve traumatized families

Pastor Maxym Oliferovski, also director of New Hope Center in Zaporizhzhya, and his team hosted their first therapeutic retreat in the Carpathian Mountains.

New Hope Trauma Retreats temporarily relocate traumatized families to a safer location east of the active war zones, providing professional therapeutic treatment sessions and an opportunity to connect with the eternal hope of the gospel. For this first retreat, a group of 16 from Eastern Ukraine were transported to the retreat center in Lybokhora, over 1000 kilometers from the harsh realities and pressures of the war.

“The nature of the surroundings is itself healing, with no air alerts, missiles or midnight explosions waking us up to check on friends and family,” Oliferovski says. “Our daughter, Katya, used her skills as a trained therapist to give people opportunities to process their emotions and understand what trauma is doing to their bodies and minds.”

Time spent climbing the hills, going to the mountains and playing in the snow helped to release stress. Although power outages were frequent, Oliferovski says there was much love, laughter and prayer to distract the attendees.

The New Hope team is grateful to Multiply and to donors for making the retreat possible and hope to host retreats every six to eight weeks, beginning in early 2023.

For more about relief work in Ukraine, including efforts to educate children and keep them connected with friends, visit https://multiply.net/ukraine-in-crisis

 

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