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United Methodists in and near Ukraine help refugees (UM News)

March 3, 2022

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine intensifies, United Methodists near the besieged country are finding ways to help with the flood of more than 1 million refugees.

So are United Methodists in western Ukraine, such as the Rev. Volodymyr Prokip, in Lviv, who described his church and student ministry’s efforts to help in a video interview with the Rev. Fred Vanderwerf of the Minnesota Conference.

“God is with those who are crying,” said Prokip, who with fellow United Methodists has provided food and temporary shelter to those headed out of the country.

Reports of the United Methodist response are coming in from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Bulgaria.

A good example can be found in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where just last year United Methodists rented a former hotel and made it into a community center. The Rev. Rares Calugar, superintendent of The United Methodist Church in Romania, reported by phone that the community center is suddenly full of refugees — most of them women and children.

The willingness of the local population to donate is high, he added. The church is getting food and other in-kind donations. Along with distributing those to refugees in Cluj-Napoca, church members have gone to the border to aid those just crossing into Romania, Calugar said.

Because the community center is currently devoted to housing and caring for refugees, its usual sources of income, such as rent from meetings, is curtailed. So the Romanian United Methodists are drawing on support from across the connection, including the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Calugar said.

Two local United Methodist churches have provided accommodations for refugees, and some Hungarian United Methodists have gone to the border to offer help. Planning, including fundraising, is underway to extend the humanitarian efforts, Khaled said.

The Rev. Svetlana Komives Francisti, of The United Methodist Church of Michalovce, Slovakia, assisted a group of African students who had been studying in Kyiv and became refugees, escaping across the Ukraine-Slovakia border.

Though far from the conflict, the First United Methodist Church in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has watched it unfold with special concern. First Hershey has been involved in mission work in Ukraine for nearly 30 years, since soon after the country achieved independence.

The Korean Council of the New York Annual Conference held a Zoom prayer gathering on Feb. 27, with 35 pastors and lay leaders attending. The group plans to meet weekly for prayer until there’s peace in Ukraine.