Two months into the war in Ukraine, the humanitarian need for aid increases. One Challenge workers Joel and Irena continue to work with numerous partners to bring aid to Ukrainians who remain in the war-torn country. They are working from a bordering country to distribute the aid through the church network in Ukraine.
“Our desire is to centralize (the giving effort) and work specifically through the church in Ukraine. (This way) people will get not only food and their needs met, but they will also receive hope and encouragement from Ukrainian Christians,” Irena says.
One area they are working toward is eliminating (or at least reducing) the misuse or misappropriation of humanitarian aid by distributing it through the church networks and requiring good reporting and accounting as to where the aid is ending up.
A Ministry of Connection
After several weeks, Joel and Irena were able to rent a home in their current country, and they share the space with family and ministry partners. They continue to coordinate the relief effort, mainly on the phone and onsite at the storage warehouse. They now have eight people working full-time from the European office, and another five helping in temporary or part-time roles.
“It seems like Joel is constantly on the phone,” Irena says. “We have multiple agreements with different aid organizations and are sending more and more trucks each week. We handle most of the logistics of getting trucks and drivers to pick up the aid and drive it to different locations in Ukraine.”
Paperwork and permissions are also a big part of the job, negotiating the cross-border transfers through the “green corridor” for aid to pass through and building relationship with government officials on both sides of the border. More and more shipments are arriving from the United States, so the number of needed trucks and logistics is increasing.
Joel serves as a bridge between the English-speaking partners (U.K. and U.S. primarily) and the Ukrainian churches and workers. Along with liaising with in-country aid organizations, Joel also manages most of the partnerships with English language partners, including:
- Convoy of Hope
- House of Bread in California
- Samaritans Purse (with World Food looking to partner with them)
- International Aid (U.K.)
- Red Cross (Lithuania)
- And of course, One Challenge.
Shining Bright in the Darkest Hour
“Ukrainians have experienced a lot of tragedy since the beginning of war. Many people have died, many lost their homes and livelihoods, and many are still living in massive danger,” Irena says. “The brutality of war and the countless civilians viciously executed is difficult to swallow. It is difficult to fathom how many lives have been permanently changed and affected by the war and death of loved ones. We constantly keep in touch with family and friends in Ukraine and are thankful for God’s protection on them so far.”
Joel and Irena desperately desire to return home, knowing that home will not be the same place they left. But they know they are where the Lord wants them for now.
“We are faced every day with the sheer amount of work there is to do here. But we also realize we can feed many people through our work. God has opened so many amazing doors for us to work directly with the Ukrainian government through the churches of Ukraine,” Irena says. “The church of Ukraine is shining brightly in this darkest hour. Christians are some of the first people to go into dangerous places, rescuing people, and meeting the needs of the desperate as best they can. Sadly, many first responders have already lost their lives.”
Joel and Irena, along with the church in Ukraine, covet your prayers.
We have been doing our best to be strong and to keep going, but it is difficult at times,” Irena says. “We believe the Lord will give us victory. Then we will return and will rebuild an even more beautiful Ukraine. Through this massive pain people are turning toward God, and he is there in even the most dangerous places where the church can’t always go.”
Pray with One Challenge
- Pray for peace!
- Pray for safety for all the pastors and relief workers.
- Pray for wisdom and courage for Ukrainian President Zelensky and the Ukrainian leadership. Pray they will turn to God in this hour of need!
- Pray for wisdom for Joel & Irena to know how and when to address all the different needs. Pray for times to rest, as the physical and emotional toll of the work is significant.
- Pray God would use this time of uncertainty and fear to move the hearts of people and recognize Christ as the only hope and Savior.
Holistic Ministry One Challenge is an international agency committed to bringing God’s transforming love and hope to all people. We identify and work to meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of individuals and communities, providing opportunities for deeper level relationships and deeper levels of change. These ministries include education, medical services, agricultural development, community development, and small business mentoring … helping local people to build a healthy community.
Partnering & Bridge Building We serve, equip, and connect the body of Christ to advance God’s kingdom among all people. We engage in strategic partnerships out of a conviction that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.