A few days after the first bombs fell in February 2022, the OM teams in Ukraine began an organised response. Ministry and personal vehicles were immediately put to use evacuating the vulnerable, church buildings and OM offices were prepared to receive refugees and team members and volunteers were put to work cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, making beds and serving others in a variety of practical ways. Prayer times were set aside, and many hours were spent listening and witnessing to those displaced by the fighting.
In the city of Kaharlyk, home to the leader of OM’s work in Ukraine, Wayne Zschech, the church where the Zschech family is based was no exception. The basement –– that had been prepared in 2014 for people displaced by fighting then –– once again opened its doors to receive anyone in need of help.
People fleeing as the Russian army advanced, in many cases, had only a few moments to grab their belongings and leave before soldiers entered their cities. The first days of the war were filled with fear, disbelief, confusion and uncertainty. People needed a safe place to find rest, sleep, eat and gather their thoughts as they searched for an answer to the question: “What next?”. Choices were limited to leaving the country or finding refuge as an internally displaced person in areas of relative safety within Ukraine. Both choices brought unwanted new beginnings and painful adjustments.
Olya Zschech, Wayne’s wife, remarks: “In our church building, some people stayed for just one night and then moved on, while others were inclined to stay longer.” As of February 2023, the church is still hosting internally displaced people. Among them is an elderly lady named Alla, who is 60 years old and arrived in Kaharlyk with her son, Oleg, his wife, Anya and their six-year-old daughter. The family had endured living under occupation in Kherson for a few months before being able to evacuate. At the time, Anya was pregnant, and the family faced many dangers and challenges as they left home. After reaching safety, Anya gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. “With no real prospects and nowhere to go, the family has stayed with us for nine months,” Olya shares. Staying in the church building has given this family and others the opportunity to observe and rub shoulders with Jesus followers.
For Alla and her family, it was the first time they interacted with followers of Christ. “We have never met people like you,” they expressed. “We have been reconsidering and analysing our lives while being here. We want to live like you do.”
A few weeks ago, Alla committed to following Jesus and accepted Him as her Lord and Saviour. She is now convinced that God has been leading her family all the way. “It’s no accident that we ended up here. It is worth it to lose everything, to be able to find Jesus,” she told a team member. Alla found comfort in understanding the purpose of her suffering and is learning to trust the Lord with her future.
“Be encouraged, Church,” Olya concludes. “God continues to work despite all the losses and suffering in our war-torn country. Let us praise His Name and continue to pray for Ukraine.”