Today we recognize that it has been a month since the war in Ukraine began. We are in regular contact with our teams in Ukraine, Latvia and Romania, which have provided the majority of the information we have reported on. They cherish your prayers and appreciate your financial support.
Awana Global Ministry leaders and former Europe Area Directors Brian and Sandee Rhodes, who have been in Europe to assist the teams and offer encouragement, sent us the following message:
“Every night, members of our team are caring for new refugees, providing for tangible needs – clothing, medicine, fuel, car repair and even cash – all the while sharing the Gospel and praying with and for those in their path. Last week, one of our partner churches in Ukraine baptized new believers despite close proximity to the ongoing conflict. A regional pastor shared that more than 1,000 refugees are being cared for each night in homes and church facilities in Ukraine. There is great hope in the darkness. Our churches and leaders are showing the love of Christ hour by hour. This is playing out not only in Ukraine, but in bordering countries as well, and the Lord is at work in and through our missionaries and staff across Eastern Europe.”
A second truckload of food, medical supplies, clothing and other aid – collected in Latvia (purchased with funds from your generous donations) and delivered to the border of Poland and Ukraine, where Awana Ukraine picked it up – arrived safely yesterday to the Awana Ukraine office. The supplies were quickly set up and organized in the nearby hospitality center, which welcomes families fleeing the crisis in their neighborhoods.
You can support these efforts by clicking the donate button, below.
A box filled with supplies is labeled with a very special message: Latvia loves Ukraine.
A baby sleeps amidst supplies from Latvia that were dispersed at a “Welcome Center” in Ukraine.
These women sort clothing that will be made available to Ukrainians in need.
Our latest message from Awana Romania Missionary Adi Stanciu was filled with gratitude for the financial blessings your contributions have made to so many refugees. Through the Soul to Soul program, which we mentioned in a previous update, Awana Romania is now providing spiritual and emotional counseling to families who have fled Ukraine. Awana volunteers are also using Awana materials to offer organized opportunities for children and youth in the refugee centers to process what they’ve been through.
In addition to these things, Awana Romania staff have also established the following partnerships to meet a variety of needs:
- Association for the Aid of the Disabled to accommodate, feed and provide social and medical assistance to refugee families who have a member with a disability. Awana Romania is establishing sponsorships to fund ongoing help.
- An Awana church partner in Bod is assisting 20 to 30 refugees per day with accommodations, meals and transportation. Awana Romania provided support for utilities and a new freezer that was needed.
- Awana Romania is partnering with A Hot Meal that helps up to 50 refugees a day, offering them a hot meal, accommodations and medical assistance as they come through the train station in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
- Awana and the ECCE HOMO Organization (also in Cluj) are sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and to refugee centers in Moldova.
- LOC Foundation, which regularly works with the poor and orphans in Romania is now hosting 30 refugees and providing food, medicine and other emergency aid. One family needed a car repair so they could continue their journey west. Awana Romania was able to help with funds.
- Lastly, Adi’s home church has opened the CBC Refugee Center. One Ukrainian refugee family has been hired to run the facility that will provide housing and necessities for families coming to Cluj or passing through going west. Awana will partner with the church to help care for these families.
It takes everyone working together.
Late last week, Awana Global Ministry leaders and former Europe Area Directors Brian and Sandee Rhodes, along with our Eastern Europe Director Pavils Grigas (who has relocated from Ukraine to Latvia), traveled to Romania to meet with Adi and the Awana Romania board. Together they all discussed strategies to meet the immediate, medium- and long-term needs of the crisis.
Says Adi, “God deserves all the glory for the way He has blessed and guided us so far, and we appreciate your support shown through prayer, counsel and financial help.”
For help discussing the conflict in Ukraine with your kids, please see our Ukraine Conversation Guide.
A sign in a train station tells refugees where to get assistance.
A food pantry is set up in a train station in Romania to serve Ukrainian refugees passing through.
Cots are ready for Ukrainian refugees to use as they arrive in a Romanian train station.
The news stories out of Ukraine are grim and discouraging. The bombing of the theater in Mariupol that was housing more than 1,000 displaced persons is heavy on the heart of the Awana team in Ukraine. They are grieving lives lost and the assault on their homeland. Yet in the face of heart-breaking news, they press on.
We thank God our team is still safe and able to serve many in their community and many more passing through who stay one or two nights in the Awana office and in the homes of our staff members. One of our missionaries reports that they are praying with people who would not have been open to prayer before the war. She said, “we even pray with the big, strong soldiers, and they are grateful.”
“On Wednesday, two mothers and six small children stayed at the Awana office. They are all traveling together in one car! Our team leader said the children were able to run around the Awana building and have fun, even though they were fleeing their home. Respite, safety and comfort to meet their physical needs, plus prayer and messages of hope to meet their spiritual needs. These are some of the ways our team is able to use your gifts, see prayers answered, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.”
Please join us in praying these verses from Psalm 121:7-8 for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine:
The Lord will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Even if our team continues to face hardship, we know the promises of Romans 8:38-39 are true:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thank you for partnering with us.
Awana in Canada has committed to financially supporting the 11 Awana staff members in Ukraine and their families. Your financial gift will allow them to meet their own basic needs as well as those who come to them for help. Food, clothing, shelter, fuel, transportation and more.
For help discussing the conflict in Ukraine with your kids, please see our Ukraine Conversation Guide.
Image credit: YouVersion
Our Awana staff and partnering churches in Latvia recently collected food, clothing, blankets, medical supplies and other much-needed resources, which they took to the border of Poland and Ukraine. Ukrainian volunteers picked up these supplies and transported them into their country for use by our Awana staff. Thank you for your continued support and prayers.
A Latvian humanitarian aid vehicle backs up to a Ukrainian truck at the border to unload life-saving supplies collected by Awana staff and partners in Latvia.
A member of Awana Ukraine unloads the supplies that will be dispersed and used to help families fleeing the war and soldiers defending their country.
March 15, 2022
Pray for “Very Big” Needs
The needs are very big for both refugees and us who are involved in helping them. I am writing to you here asking you to support us in prayers:
For refugees (most of them are women with children). People are scared and confused and don’t know what to do now or for the long term. Those who have friends in Western Europe want to get there. But those who have no one, have to stay in Romania and look for work. Most have left their husbands and parents behind and are worried about those who are close to fighting. Also, their houses and property have been abandoned and they do not know if they will recover them.
For us, those who help coordinate efforts. (Many refugees reach the border and are blocked because they have no way to reach other cities.) As an example how we solve the problem, our church rents a bus to bring the flow of refugees from the [border], twice per week. But is just one bus.
[For] financial resources. There are some churches that have put the mattresses in the church hall [for the refugees]. Other [refugees] stay in families offering free food and accommodation. Resources are running low and people are worried that they will have no money to buy food, fuel, electricity and gas [which] became 30-50% more expensive in a week. There is also a panic about the materials of current necessity that are starting to be no longer found in stores.
There is a great need for translators. Most of us use phone programs. We, Awana, provide a part-time salary to a lady who was hired as a translator at a refugee center. We offered her salary for three months, and we will see how we will find resources in the future.
Heroes Are All Around
All this time, I’ve seen a lot of heroes. Families who have made great sacrifices to help. Pastors and leaders (who use the Awana program) who haven’t been home with the family in a week. Children who quickly become friends with Ukrainian children, offering what they value most and giving up their savings.
Pray for us to know how to use every penny and how to continue raising the money needed to continue the Campaign.
Thank you for being close to us.
Your financial contributions provide warm and safe beds for weary refugees.
Awana Romania Missionary Adi Stanciu (right) and Awana Romania Coordinator Bianca Hambasan (left) play with refugee children and listen to their stories.
We’ve received financial gifts and inquiries from churches and individuals across Canada. All donations from Canada will be sent to support the 11 Awana staff and their families. Donations will be used to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, fuel, and transportation.
If possible, please send us photos of your kids praying, saying verses or communicating special messages to Ukraine. We are sharing them with our teams there, which is giving them much encouragement and joy.
(You may send them to email@example.com Remember to get parents’ permission first!)
You Hold Our Hands … For His Glory
One of our key leaders in Ukraine has sent us reports each day this week. Each message starts with the news of attacks on civilians and the horrors of war. It is truly devastating. Yet each message ends with stories of serving others, and people finding help and hope. Here are just two highlights in her words:
“As many as 1,200 refugees pass through our city every day. My husband is skilled as a mechanic, so he is helping people to make repairs to their vehicles, finding parts they need and buying fuel so that they can keep going the next day to the border.”
“Today we have nine people staying at the Awana office. One mother is here with her two children. Her daughter is an epileptic, so we spent the day looking for medicines to help with her seizures. Thank God we found the medicine that was needed! Tonight the children are washed, fed and warmed up. Tomorrow morning they are leaving by train to the border. And that’s just one little story. There are thousands of them.”
She concludes her note this way, “Please continue to pray for us. God provides opportunities to serve, and you hold our hands. We believe that tomorrow will bring new opportunities that will be used for His glory!!! To God be the glory!”
Our Awana Romania Missionary Adi Stanciu shared that the Awana Romania church partners are already working with Ukrainian refugees to meet their needs for shelter, food and clothing, and assisting them with legal paperwork. A refugee family of five is being hosted by an Awana leader in the village of Noslac. The family visited the Awana club there this past Saturday and spent Sunday with Adi and his wife in their home.
Adi said, “It was a great time to find out what they went through. They have no plans for the future. They left home with only a suitcase. They are waiting for the war to end and return, but they do not know if they have a whole house. Each person has their own story, which amazes us. We are overwhelmed by these stories, but we try to be practical, to encourage and to help with everything we can.”
Awana Romania is also partnering with a Romanian nonprofit to take supplies into Ukraine to help families and churches there. This past weekend, an Awana Romania volunteer assisted. She reports they unloaded the truck quickly at a church because they didn’t want to stay outside for long. The streets were empty and only a couple of grocery stores were open. She adds that there are also fuel shortages and no money in the ATM machines. Awana Romania plans to send more aid this week. Thank you for your prayers and support.
It is sometimes difficult to read the messages our Ukraine staff members send us, but we are grateful to hear how God is working through them during the war and to know they are safe. Here are two we recently received.
War is Worse in Reality
“Today was a busy day. New refugees are staying in office, so now we have new friends. They are from Kharkiv, frightened and desperate. They lost everything and don’t know what to do. We try to show them love and make them, as much as possible, feel comfortable and safe. A few minutes ago an air threat was announced, but we are waiting for one more older couple from Kharkov to come to us. [Another staff member] is delivering food to soldiers, and I found a minute to sit, pray, think and write a message.
I’ve heard a lot about war from my grandparents and I’ve learned about it at history lesson, but it is much worse in reality. You can feel fear in the air. You need to sit in a cold basement and wait. You worry about your friends who are on their way to the border. You pray for soldiers you know by names and feel relief when once in a while they write you, “I’m alive. Thank you for prayers. Everything will be ok.”
Oh, I wish it would never happen. I’m lost in reality. Sometimes I feel myself strong and brave and sometimes I feel frightened and confused. Please continue to pray for us. We need strength, physical and spiritual. We need miracle! May God be seen through us in this difficult time of the war.”
Happy Moments of Life
“In the background of disturbing and terrible days, wonderful and long-awaited events in our family. We want to share our experiences and our joy with you. February 27 [was] born granddaughter Sophie, and today [March 7]) our son [got married]. We thank God for giving us happy moments of life. Pray that our family can come together and celebrate the events of joy and victory!”
We continue to get word from our contacts around the world about the efforts they are taking to serve the people of Ukraine. Ruben Marian, president and CEO of Utilben, serves on the board of Awana Romania. In this video he shares the immediate impact and need of the war in Ukraine and the many ways individuals can help support the ministry on the ground in this region.
Already Awana Romania has six partner organizations and churches working with them. Says Awana Romania missionary Adi Stanciu, “The list is just the beginning. Our main contribution is to take care of the children in the refugee centers, offering them care and counseling through games, crafts, Bible lessons, prayer, clothes and toys, and others according to their specific needs.”
They plan to create a package of services they can offer to other Awana Clubs in the country to help the refugee communities in their areas. They are also working on a fundraising strategy.
“The needs are big, but so are the opportunities,” he says. “Our motto is like this: everyone can do something.”
We’ve been receiving updates from one of our Awana Ukraine staff members. This was a message she sent late yesterday.
“Today was the 8th day of the war. It brought many bad news about attacks, missiles, deaths. But on the other hand it was filled with great joy. Today our church had a baptism and my Awana girl, [now an] Awana leader was baptized. Being in Awana club from the early childhood she [had been] fighting her tears of disappointment and rejection. There had been many prayers and talks and today, in the midst of the war, she makes this decision [to be baptized]. It gives me hope. It gives me strength. It inspires me and reminded one more time that God is in control. He hears our prayers and He answers. So he will answer our prayer about peace. To God be the glory!”
Earlier in the day, she sent us this audio report.
Thank you for praying over the weekend. We have heard encouraging reports of churches around the world lifting the people of Ukraine up in prayer. We thank God that our one family fleeing the country has made it safely over the border. Please continue to pray for the many Ukrainians still seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
The rest of our Awana team has stayed in the county and is providing ministry to the communities where they are living or staying. We are trying to keep in contact with all of our staff and received this message from one of them:
“We are here to defend and serve! God, even now, gives us opportunities to serve. We pray together for peace; we pray for safety; we pray for courage. We help those who need it with prayers, with food, and sometimes just giving a hug.”
Lord, Hear Our Prayers for Ukraine
Awana Ukraine began serving churches, children and families in 1992. Over the past 30 years it has grown into our most vibrant and influential ministry in Europe. Awana Ukraine partners with 548 churches, reaching and discipling more than 25,000 children across Ukraine every week. The regional office there also supports the ministry of Awana in 10 other countries.
On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine. Our hearts are heavy for the children of Ukraine, for our Christian brothers and sisters there, for our church partners and for our 11 Ukrainian families on staff with Awana. We are in regular contact with our leadership there to discern how best to help them. Some of our families closest to the fighting have already had to flee their homes and church families, and one family is sending their children to another country for safety. We also have missionary families with adult children who are being called up to fight in defense of Ukraine.
As the war intensifies, the situation appears dire. We do not know the long-term impact on the nation or our ministry, but we do know God is in control. We trust in the Lord, and we know He is close to the brokenhearted. We call out to Him to hear our prayers, to protect His children and heal their land. We invite you to join us in prayer for the following requests:
Our Prayers for Ukraine
For peace. Lord, we pray that You would end the current conflict with Russia and restore peace for all of Ukraine.
For kids in Awana clubs. May the oldest to the very youngest of those who have put their trust in You, Jesus, be filled with your Holy Spirit to pray and share their Gospel hope with family and neighbors during this crisis.
For Christian leaders. May the adult Christ-followers in the country boldly share their faith where you have placed them. May they be bold fighting on the front lines, bold in the hospitals where they care for the injured, bold in places of refuge, and bold in their communities. May they declare the Gospel in the face of strong opposition.
Awana staff and their families. We ask You, God, to provide protection and resources for those who are relocating, for those staying behind and for those who have been called to join the military. May they know Your presence, care and sufficiency for whatever they face.
All Ukrainians. As basic supplies run out in the country, we ask for Your provision. May those supplying humanitarian aid safely make it to those in need. May Ukrainians freely give to one another what they do have, and may there be an outpouring of Your love as bordering countries welcome in refugees.
World leaders. As world leaders respond to the crisis, we pray for them to have discernment, to stand together in unity against aggression and turn to You, God, for help.
Our hearts. May we remember that our hope is in You. You have each of us on this Earth for such a time as this. We want to be Your hands and feet to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and to bear each other’s burdens. We give You thanks for all You are doing and will do through us.
We will continue to provide updates to you from our ministry team in Ukraine and share ways to support them. Please continue to keep them in your prayers. If you would like to support them financially, you can give online at www.awanacanada.ca/ukraine