Two special giving opportunities are available to help the people of Ukraine. Keep reading to learn more about who will receive the money and how they will use it to help rescue people.
Giving Opportunity 1: First Baptist Church of Brovary
Give to First Free Rockford’s sister church, First Baptist Church of Brovary, Ukraine —which is about 20 km east of the capital city of Kyiv.
How to give: A special offering will be collected at all worship venues over the next two Sunday mornings, March 13 and 20. Mark your check memo or envelope with either “Ukraine” or “Brovary.” You can also designate your giving online through First Free’s website or app.
How it works:
The money will be transferred securely to Pastor Anatoly Lepak of First Baptist Brovary. Anatoly and his wife, Sofia, left Ukraine late last week and are staying in neighboring Romania. They joined three of their daughters, who left a few days earlier.
Steve Cooper, First Free’s Director of Global Outreach, said the Lepaks will receive the money and our trust in how they use it.
“Depending on when we get it to them and how often, it will be used immediately for relief — for food and shelter, medical supplies,” Steve said. “And later we hope it will be for recovery, but we don’t know when that will be. The money certainly will be used for ministry. We can guarantee that.”
The church’s congregation is dispersed both inside and outside of Ukraine this week, but they continue to meet over Zoom when possible.
Steve connects with someone in the Lepak family almost every day.
“Here’s the kind of people that the Lepaks are,” he said. “Two of the daughters got out of Ukraine and into Romania almost immediately. They were on their way to central Europe. But when they got to Romania, they said, ‘We have to stop and help the others.’ So they have been receiving other Ukrainians and helping them get settled and comforted and they’re taking care of them.”
The daughters’ husbands cannot leave Ukraine because they are men of fighting age (between 18 and 60). Meantime, they are doing everything they can.
“One of them is driving women and children to the border so they can get out,” Steve said. “And one of the others is taking food, bread, into Kiev. He’s driving into the battle to bring food, instead of hiding out. Those are the type of people we are supporting.”
The Lepaks’ son in-law, Vitaly, drove into Kyiv with bread for people trapped there (pictured here).
A portion of the funds collected will also help with expenses incurred by First Free missionaries Garrett and Cassie Speck, who serve in Ukraine with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). They have temporarily returned safely to the U.S.
Giving Opportunity 2: ReachGlobal Crisis Response
ReachGlobal, the world missions arm of the EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America), seeks to raise $500,000 to help the people of Ukraine.
How it works:
Brian Duggan, executive vice president of ReachGlobal, said a three-phase plan has been devised for the funds being raised.
“It’s still early,” he said. “So the first aspect is helping people in Ukraine. We are still able to get money in there, and this is helping directly with refugees through churches and church people who are protecting people and helping them to get out.”
In one town near Kyiv, a church with connections to ReachGlobal is sheltering more than 150 people in its basement. Here is a message from the pastor, relayed by Mark Lewis of ReachGlobal Crisis Response:
We are fine. Thank you. We are helping people to get from Kharkov. Thanks to your money we were able to help a family with four children to leave Kharkov and to go to the Western Ukraine. Another 5 people were evacuated by our brother and we paid for the gasoline. There are so many people who are trapped in the shelters and who wants to leave. Now we are looking for the ways to help them. We also send money to some people there.
The second way the EFCA funds will be used will be to help refugees once they have left Ukraine.
“That will be going through the countries where we have teams, to help take care of their needs there,” Duggan said. “Our teams on the ground are in Slovakia, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and we have strong partnerships in Poland.”
As of early this week, more than 1.5 million Ukrainians had fled their country—most seeking refuge in those five nations.
A third, future phase for the funds raised will be to help Ukrainian people resettle, ideally back in Ukraine, Duggan said. If that is not possible soon, then they will receive help to settle elsewhere in Europe or the U.S.
Follow ReachGlobal’s work via social media.
Interviews with Nadia
Pastor Anatoly and Sofia Lepak’s daughter, Nadia Matviichuk, visited Rockford in 2014. At the time, Ukrainians feared that fighting with pro-Russian separatists near the country’s eastern border would lead to an all-out Russian invasion. Nadia did this video interview with Jim Killam during that visit. Her comments feel eerily predictive today.
Last week, Nadia was interviewed on Romanian television. She spoke English, but the interview is dubbed in Romanian.
Supporting Slovakia efforts
First Free Rockford also supports two missionary couples in Slovakia—Peter and Eva Hrubo and Pierre and Lisa Van Vuuren. They are deep into helping Ukrainian refugees as well. Steve Cooper said our church plans to help them from the Global Outreach fund (this is the fund where money goes when it is designated for Missions). But the current, special offering will go to the Brovary church.