(K-LOVE Closer Look) –With just what they could carry on their backs, millions of women, children and elderly Ukrainians have fled Russian attacks on their homeland. Scared, exhausted and hungry, the refugees have been welcomed at their nation’s western border by international relief agencies like U.S.-based Convoy of Hope.
“As soon as we saw this unfolding we were compelled to go to Ukraine,” says Sara Forhetz, lead spokesperson for Convoy. The ministry has decades of field experience responding to widescale human tragedies like earthquakes and hurricanes, but Sara says, “what we’re finding is the resilience of these people is very similar to what it would be if it was a natural disaster…because they keep getting back and up and fighting for another day to live."
As Russian tanks rolled into eastern Ukraine, “Convoy of Hope sent a team over to secure a warehouse in Poland near the border,” explains Sara’s husband Ethan Forhetz, also a spokesperson for the ministry. Truckloads of tuna, beans, rice, fresh water, baby food, hygiene kits even cellphone chargers have been crucial to the survival of displaced families. “A lot of these refugees coming out of Ukraine are women and little kids, babies and toddlers who are walking around in a daze following Mommy… so if they’re wondering where their next meal is coming from they can’t plan the major things like where we going? how are we going to get back in touch with the male members of our family who we left behind to fight?” This is why Convoy urgently focuses on providing the basics of life, he says. “People need hope ultimately --and that’s what a full belly gives them – it allows them to plan for the future.”
Convoy currently distributes these life-saving supplies to Ukrainians at refugee centers in 7 different countries, including Poland and Romania, buying familiar foods from local vendors whenever possible. Having already worked in some EU countries since 2014, Convoy of Hope already had systems in place to get supplies in fast. The ministry was able to immediately activate its established network of churches in eastern Europe along with staff and volunteers nearest to the refugees. “Once the bombs start flying and the missiles start flying it changes everything,” Ethan admits, but “the infrastructure in place has gone a long way in helping Convoy help the most people during this conflict.”
Sara emphasizes that the infrastructure was comprised of long-term, pre-existing relationships with the local Christian communities. “We believe the hope of the local church is really the hope of the world,” she says. “You can talk to that pastor and say hey, ‘what are those people coming to your front door needing?’ … and then we have the ability to get that supply to them.”
“Long after we’re gone those pastors that we gave that product to... it’s their street that got bombed. They’ll still maintain those relationships with those people,” notes Sara, which ultimately fulfills the Convoy mission. “The real hope of the world is Jesus -- to make Him famous through the local church.”
Follow Convoy of Hope relief efforts for the people of Ukraine at the link where staff in Europe post photos and updates.