Mel (Miloslav) Munchinsky, Eurasia/Central Asia Partnership Coordinator, General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church
Over the stark reality of the Russian/Ukrainian War, which started a year ago, congregations and individuals in the Virginia Annual Conference have been supportive of United Methodist work in Eurasia since we reactivated our work there in 1991. At that time, In Mission Together Partnerships were established with UM churches in Stavropol, Kyiv, and L’viv, and have lasted for almost 30 years! Over the years, the words of Philippians 1:3-6 have guided our work there, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Thousands of individuals have thrust themselves into constantly praying for God’s intervention in the Russian/Ukrainian war since February 22, 2022. Grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children have been asking God to intervene in this conflict so that lives on both sides can be preserved and not perish.
When asked if Ukrainian United Methodists have felt the prayers of God’s people, the resounding answer is “Yes!” How do they know? Perhaps the answer lies in “The Ministry of Presence.” Although this is often expressed by being physically present in ministry with another, it can also refer to others knowing they have not been forgotten, abandoned or being alone even when separated by great distances, all because of prayer. Knowing that you are standing with people in the midst of anxiety and fear provides encouragement and inner strength for those who might be going through the valley of death, so that they might fear no evil, for it is God’s rod and staff which gives them comfort.
So, what can you do to help be part of the Ministry of Presence to help Ukrainian refugees as well as United Methodists in the country and also those who are scattered all over Europe? Here are some suggestions:
+ Mourn with those who mourn; identify yourself with refugees who are not only displaced but may have lost everything except their lives.
+ Pray for both justice and peace. Pray for those who are suffering. Pray for those who need to make crucial decisions about basic life choices after losing everything. Pray without ceasing.
+ Continue to be informed about current events or developments so you can pray for specific things, asking for our Lord’s intervention.
+ Look for practical ways to advocate for refugees with government representatives.
+ Think about possibly extending hospitality to refugees in your home if an opportunity comes up or perhaps assisting people to get settled through a re-settlement agency.
+ Donate to refugee relief, if possible. Monetary gifts provide flexibility for what is needed rather than sending in-kind gifts which might not be needed at all! The Ukrainian Advance number is 14053A; the link is https://umcmission.org/advance-project/14053a/
Although the war has dragged on for a year, United Methodists must continue their support and not become weary in well-doing. No one knows when this war will end, but United Methodists look forward to re-establishing relationships that have been broken during this conflict. We do have the option of electronic communications for which we are grateful, but there will come a time when face-to-face fellowship will be restored! We anticipate and look forward to a time when Partnerships will flourish once again. May it come quickly!
United Methodists across the US continue to support ministries in Ukraine and Russia; here in Virginia, Luray UMC is in partnership with Stavropol UMC in Stavropol, Russia; Blacksburg UMC partners with United Methodists in Kiev, and Grace UMC in Manassas supports St. John UMC in Lviv. For more information about this ministries or to learn how to participate in these ongoing partnerships, contact Walt Surratt at Luray UMC ([email protected]), Jennifer Cooper at Blacksburg UMC ([email protected]), or Hannah Nixon at Grace UMC Manassas (hnixon137562gmail.com)