Extraordinary aid campaigns and everyday togetherness: The commitment of Methodists to refugees in and from Ukraine does not follow a pattern. It is made possible by the staff on the ground - as well as donors worldwide.
"Supplies, transports, preparations... This is what many days in the church look like," write the leaders of the UMC in Kielce (Poland) on Facebook. Everyday life is characterized by different forms of help for people who have fled in or from Ukraine. The Methodists in Kielce support local projects, such as a shelter for refugees in the city. And they bring relief supplies across the border into Ukraine.
On the weekend of May 21-22, "already the fourth delivery to Ukraine" is to take place, write those responsible - and correct themselves: "...or perhaps only the fourth? Because the need is much, much greater..." This is a challenge that the parish could never meet on its own. That is why they call for donations of money and goods: "shoes, flip-flops, underwear, T-shirts, ... hygiene and food products".
The need is great. Anca Beu from the Methodist EMC congregation in Cluj-Napoca (Romania) is a good example of this. They had received a call for help from a village near Odessa. Russian forces had occupied the town for some time. When the troops left, the infrastructure had been destroyed, she says. "The place was left without food and without the possibility to cook (no gas, no electricity)." Precarious was the situation already for adults. But the situation had been even more threatening for infants and young children, "who need specially cooked food."
Bringing relief supplies there was not without danger. Anca Beu recounts, "The food was taken to a nearby village. From there, it was transported in small bags so that it wouldn't be noticed that humanitarian aid was going to this village attacked by the Russians." Finally, the aid arrived at its destination.
Another shipment of aid from Methodists in Romania went to a community of Roma in Ukraine who had run out of food. "We are sending supplies for 100 people that will help them for a few weeks," officials reported in a Facebook post.
But often the help for people in and out of Ukraine is much less spectacular. Monika Zuber, a Methodist pastor from Elk, Poland, writes that she is repeatedly asked about her life with the refugees. "I answer that it looks quite normal, quite ordinary." An everyday co-existence has developed in the past two months since the war began, she says. "We don't call them refugees, just guests. We pray together for a quick end to the war and build a common daily life."
They do not have the impression that they are doing anything special, Monika Zuber writes further. "We simply have guests who are looking for a place to stay". Alluding to the claim of the worldwide UMC - "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." - she says, "Having open doors is, after all, part of our identity as Methodists."
Time and again, leaders in countries directly or indirectly bordering Ukraine express gratitude that people from many countries support and enable their work with their gifts and prayers. "Your generosity is an extra hand and heart with which we can embrace more people," Monika Zuber writes on behalf of others. "Thank you for this solidarity, the open hearts and the great empathy."
Source: Sigmar Friedrich, Zurich