Update on April 26, 2022 from Taras Dyatlik
Supported in part by SL’s Ukrainian Relief Fund, 300 Ukrainian volunteers work in 10 centers. They are mostly seminary leaders, faculty, students, and graduates (church ministers). Most of them serve full-time.
Their valiant work so far:
- 9,500 people evacuated from immediate conflict zones
- 1,420 internally displaced people hosted on seminary campuses (mostly women, children, and the elderly); they have no homes to which to return
- 16,219 refugees moved through seminary campuses since February 24; seminaries have given them meals, rest, pastoral care, and, where appropriate, copies of the New Testament
- Over 560 tons of food distributed among 63,200 people; this is not a mass distribution but happens person-to-person, house-to-house, apartment-to-apartment, as volunteers have short conversations with each individual, identifying other, more specific needs and sharing the Gospel as appropriate
Thanks to this network’s efforts, on each day of the war’s first 50 days:
- 190 people were evacuated from conflict zones
- 305 refugees and internally displaced people transitioned through seminaries
- 1,200 needy people near the front lines and in formerly occupied territories received food
April 21, 2022
Dear Supporters of the ScholarLeaders Ukrainian Relief Fund,
In the eight weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, we have watched with horror as the news of suffering and devastation has come to us from friends across the country. In the face of such evil, we have been humbled by seminary leaders’ and pastors’ self-sacrificial, heroic acts of ministry.
With our colleague in Ukraine – Taras Dyatlik, who helps lead our Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI) and works with United World Mission – we have outlined a three-phase response to the war: 1) relief for those impacted by the war; 2) stabilization of current students and schools; 3) re-imagining and rebuilding theological education in post-war Ukraine.
Thank you for your gifts to this effort. Over 115 donors have blessed us by contributing a total of $750,000 to relief work, including two recent significant gifts. We will have paid out one quarter of the fund by the end of this week (4/22).
Collaborating with seminary leaders, Taras and his team have organized seven relief hubs, each led by a seminary president and faculty, pastors, students, and other volunteers. We at ScholarLeaders are focusing our giving on four of those hubs, supporting the schools we know firsthand. These leaders and their team members are our friends. Each day, they serve hundreds of victims and refugees. They have also handed out hundreds of Bibles: many people are asking for a copy of the Scriptures, wanting God’s Word even more than the food and clothing offered to them in their need. Read on for snapshots of how each of these four hubs – that you have helped support – is acting as light in this very dark moment of Ukraine’s history.
Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS): UETS provided food for over 5,000 in and around Kyiv, mobilizing 50 faculty, students, and alumni-pastors to do so. They have also helped over 900 people escape the Kyiv region, sheltering many on UETS’s campus before they evacuated. Russian shelling has subsequently partially destroyed the campus. The UETS community continues to care for over 200 refugees in three locations and to distribute food, medical supplies, and Bibles (in partnership with the Ukrainian Bible Society). Finally, UETS is adding seminars on counseling to prepare pastors and caregivers as they help bring healing during so much trauma. Indeed, as the Russian army has retreated from areas around Kyiv, recaptured towns have revealed the staggering extent of the atrocities committed by Russian forces. Christianity Today published an interview with Dr. Ivan Rusyn, President of UETS, who returned to his hometown, Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. Ukrainians now and in future desperately need the Spirit’s healing.
Odessa Theological Seminary (OTS): Living on the shore of the Black Sea, inhabitants of Odessa have endured the fear of imminent attack by Russian ships. Thankfully, that has not yet happened, so OTS has coordinated food supply efforts. As Russian shelling has ruined basic infrastructure, food, household items, and medical supplies have become more difficult to get to civilians under fire. Working with local churches, OTS has distributed 150 tons of food to over 15,000 people. In addition, OTS coordinates teams in Odessa, the Transcarpathian region, and Poland to evacuate hundreds of women and children out of war zones; the campus serves as a waystation on the route to safety. Dr. Oleksandr Geychenko, President of OTS, was one of the leaders featured in a Christianity Today article about the Christian response to the war.
Tavriski Christian Institute (TCI): Located on the Dnieper River in the city of Kherson, TCI’s campus was overrun by Russian troops in the war’s first weeks. Undaunted, the TCI community relocated upriver. They have used the seminary’s three vans to bring food and medical supplies into particularly dangerous areas, such as Irpen. After dropping their supplies, they fill the vans with evacuees, driving them to relative safety and guiding them as they journey further west. Repeating these circuits over and over for nearly two months, TCI has evacuated over 500 people out of Russian-occupied areas, as this video highlights.
University Divitia Gratiae (UDG): In Chisinau, Moldova, UDG is now housing hundreds of refugees who have fled Ukraine. Evan Hunter and Taras Dyatlik were on UDG’s campus the day the war started. They knew that, even though it is not located in Ukraine, the school would quickly become part of the network caring for refugees. Indeed, UDG has used its resources to help women, children, and the elderly figure out where to go for longer-term safety, even as these individuals pray for the war’s end and an opportunity to return home.
If you are interested in more details, you can listen to a recent episode of Wheaton College’s “To the Nations” podcast, which features Christopher Hays and Evan Hunter speaking about this work.
Thank you for partnering with us as we support these seminary communities. They are playing a front-line role in caring for the more than 12 million people displaced by this war. When we began VSI work with these schools, we never imagined that war relief would be part of their callings. Yet we see how God is using them to meet immediate needs and provide pastoral care.
Beyond providing concrete care, these schools continue to operate as theological centers. In March, they hosted two webinars to help hundreds outside Ukraine understand the war. The first webinar featured seminary presidents; the second highlighted women leaders. Each gave updates on relief, shared experiences of the war, and offered theological reflections. (Read more in the Ukrainian leaders’ statement, “Voices from the Ruins”.)
Please join us in continuing to pray for Ukraine. In particular, pray:
- For Taras and his team, including Roman Soloviy, Taras’s sister Olga, and the seminary presidents leading each hub. This war takes a toll on everyone as they hourly encounter the depths of human depravity, coordinate logistics to distribute supplies, and do so under the near-constant drone of air raid sirens outside their own homes. Pray for safety, encouragement, and strength to face the tasks at hand.
- For faculty and pastors who help with the relief efforts. Pray for plans to resume teaching, online or in-person – not only for students in Ukraine but also for students in Central Asia, where these seminaries have networks. Pray for them as they think about the longer-term future, when they must consider how to live and work after so many homes and so much infrastructure of daily life have been destroyed.
- For students as they volunteer and seek to resume studies. The longer the war lasts, the more likely it is that many will have to serve in the army.
- For families that have been separated. Millions of women and children have been displaced internally or have fled to other countries. Pray for safety, the ability to remain connected, and, when the time comes, for reunification.
- For Ukraine’s future. So much damage will take decades to repair; the trauma inflicted by violence, rape, and fear is leaving a deep impact on millions of Ukrainians. Pray for churches, pastors, and Christian leaders as they seek to bring healing.