Serving in Wartime Europe

On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. We live in Lviv in western Ukraine. Living about a 90-minute drive away from the European Union, we were sure we were safe. But on that Thursday morning, we were extremely surprised when we heard air raid sirens. When we turned on the radio, we were told to collect basic items, turn off water and gas, and seek the nearest bomb shelter.

We gathered our kids only to realize that we had no idea where to find our closest shelter. Instead, we decided to follow our neighbors’ example and go to a nearby village. Ultimately, with heavy hearts and lots of questions, we decided to go to the Polish border. We crossed into the EU and for now are living in the Czech Republic. We hope to return to Ukraine soon.

The invasion has caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. Nearly 6 million refugees have left Ukraine, while an estimated 7.7 million people have been displaced within the country. Urgent medical care, food, and safety are desperately needed for those in northern, southern, and eastern Ukraine.

From the very first day of the war, we have been asking ourselves: How does God want to use us? We have been helping in three different areas.

Josiah Venture booklets being passed out to Ukrainian women.

First, we offer spiritual care by distributing resources printed by Josiah Venture. For example, we offer a booklet called 22 Days of Encouragement based on Psalms, the Gospel of John with the four spiritual laws included on the back, and Beyond Disaster, a book that helps people to deal with trauma. We have helped distribute a total of about 200,000 booklets both in Ukraine and in Europe. Our partner churches in Ukraine are involved in sharing the gospel with hundreds of refugees whom they care for daily.

Next, we help refugees. Josiah Venture has evacuated 3,280 people from Ukraine using 52 rented buses. Many of the 752 churches in our network across Europe are partnering with us to receive these refugees and provide them with safe long-term accommodations and community. And we have been using two retreat centers as places for spiritual care and restoration for refugees in transition.

Tomasz (back left) with a bus of Ukrainian refugees bound for Poland.

Last, we have distributed humanitarian aid inside Ukraine, including 466 tons of food and medical supplies which we have purchased and transported to hard-hit areas by our network of brave drivers. They are also sharing the good news of Jesus and handing out our custom-designed Ukrainian Bibles and study aids.

On a daily basis I am helping find humanitarian aid for refugees with many different needs, providing vehicles, and translating for Ukrainians in two different churches each Sunday. I am also helping organize a Ukrainian-speaking church in the Czech Republic. This summer, we are working on how to best organize evangelistic camps during wartime.

War was always something I thought only our great-grandparents experienced. I never thought we would experience real wartime living in 21st century Europe. But during this dark time, we appreciate your prayers for Ukraine and your support more than ever.

Pastor Tomasz Chmiel [FLBC 2001 and FLS 2006] is a missionary to Ukraine with Josiah Venture. He is married to Miriam [FLBC 2003], and they have four children: Hannah, Kristina, Lydia, and David.

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