Tag Archives: Ukraine

Living the message of peace in a conflict zone

by Julie Bell

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—When armed men arrived at a Light of the Gospel church in the Donetsk region of Ukraine they searched the basement for weapons. There were no weapons; instead one of the men found a file with the names of people the church is assisting.

“He saw that we help veterans, disabled people, and large families,” says Pavel, the bishop of Light of the Gospel group of Baptist churches. “I think that touched the hearts of these fighters,” he says. Pavel’s last name is withheld for security reasons.

Light of the Gospel has about 20 churches, some of them in areas where MCC is currently providing humanitarian and other assistance.

In the summer of 2014 a conflict that began in Kyiv spread eastward to the Donetsk area. Pavel calls it a “scary time,” as criminals and people with weapons roamed the streets. Many residents fled. But Pavel, and many other church leaders, stayed.

“I felt God’s quiet voice saying you have to stay for the Christians and the citizens,” he says. “You had the feeling that your life could end at any time, but there’s also a feeling that God protects and is near.”

About half of the Light of the Gospel churches are now in territory under Ukrainian government control. The other half are in a self-declared independent republic. That’s where Pavel lives; he says the armed groups controlling the area often send people in need to his churches.

“They say, go to the Baptist churches if you are hungry,” Pavel says. “Those people know that we are peacebuilders, people of non-violence.”

Pavel’s commitment to peacebuilding, and MCC, began many years ago. As a young man he refused to carry a weapon during his mandatory service with the Soviet Army. For many years MCC supported a charitable organization that Pavel helped establish.

More recently, he has taken part in peacebuilding sessions organized by MCC. The last one, in the fall of 2016, brought together MCC partners to talk about peacebuilding during Ukraine’s ongoing conflict. Andrew Geddert, MCC’s representative in Ukraine, calls Pavel’s participation “extremely valuable.”

“He brings first-hand experience of living and ministering in non-government controlled territory and he represents a group of churches with commitments to a peace position,” Geddert says. “This has been essential to maintain unity between churches on both sides of the front line.”

Fedir, whose last name is withheld for security reasons, lives on the other side of that line; he is pastor at a Light of the Gospel church about 80 kilometres from Pavel’s area. This government controlled territory is home to thousands of people fleeing from the conflict. Fedir’s church provides food, clothing and other necessities to those people.

“We believe in non-violence; this is our understanding of our faith and we hold to that,” Fedir says. “We are testimony that believers don’t hide in the bushes.”

Fedir and Pavel say the value of that testimony will outlast the current conflict. They say by living their faith during difficult times, they are demonstrating that non-violence and peacebuilding are the path to reconciliation and unity.

“The fighters haven’t destroyed us because they see we are a peaceful people,” says Pavel. “This is a critically important message. We pray that God will have mercy and give grace to Ukraine so we can resolve this conflict.”

MCC

 

MCC: Reasons to hope this Easter

 Compiled by Rachel Bergen

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5).

He is risen, indeed!

Resurrection is the ultimate sign of hope. Christ’s rebirth plants hope in people of faith, and we regularly see this hope blossom in the lives of the people that MCC supports around the world.

 MCC responds to famine in South Sudan

At a point in time where Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria are affected by what the United Nations calls the worst global food crisis since the Second World War, it may be difficult to see signs of hope.

The United Nations has declared a famine in Unity State, the northern region of South Sudan. It’s the first famine declared by the UN since 2011. Famine is a term the UN rarely uses, reserved for the most dire situations that meet specific criteria for rates of malnutrition, food shortages and death.

MCC is providing a two-month supply of food materials in Unity State. Two hundred and forty-five households will receive sorghum (grain), beans, cooking oil and salt. The distribution will be carried out by MCC’s partner, Sudanese Development Relief Agency.

In addition, we are supporting South Sudanese refugees living in refugee camps in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. A shipment of MCC canned meat recently left our warehouse in Canada, and will help supplement the diet of people in the camps – mostly children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Conflict-affected families are receiving humanitarian assistance in Ukraine

For much of the world, the conflict in eastern Ukraine seems to be forgotten, but the Nesterchuk family continues to live through it. Though Ukraine might not be making headlines, MCC has partnered with local organizations there to help deliver humanitarian assistance for the internally displaced people and others who are vulnerable since the conflict began in early 2014.

MCC is sending relief kits, canned meat and comforters to those who need it most. MCC has also provided US $1.7 million, including $1 million from the Canadian government in emergency funds. This assistance helps subsidize the costs of heat and rent, and funds psychological support, trauma healing and locally purchased food and other items.

Latrines are reducing rates of cholera in Haiti

Last year, Hurricane Matthew hit the rural community of Wopisa-Gabriyèl hard. Beyond the damage to animals and crops, there was also an increased risk of cholera caused by the intense rains washing cholera-infected human waste into the streams and rivers that are used for bathing and drinking.

The community has long known of a relatively low-cost solution to protect its water source and its health: the installation of latrines. For subsistence farmers though, the materials to build latrines are too expensive.

MCC is partnering with the community in addressing their needs and will provide materials to construct 450 latrines that will meet the needs of 90 per cent of the residents. MCC will also be working with other remote communities at high risk for cholera by building a total of 630 latrines serving more than 5,000 people. 

Students are attending school in Cambodia thanks to a hot breakfast program

Attendance is up at Proom and Angkearhdei primary schools in Cambodia’s Prey Veng province after a new hot breakfast program was implemented.

Each morning, children like Meth Peaktra and Nyum Sophim, who attend Proom Primary School, start the day with a bowl of piping hot rice porridge which includes pork and vegetables. In this highly vulnerable Cambodian village, 90 per cent of residents practice small-scale, low-yield rice farming. Many families are poor and have trouble meeting all their nutritional needs. Now the children in the programs are healthier, have more incentive to go to school and can focus on their studies.

Farmers in Burkina Faso have better crop yields

Step into the fields of Etienne Tiendrébeogo in Yé, Burkina Faso, and you’ll see large half-moon shapes dug into the soil.

Tiendrébeogo learned about these half-moons and other new agricultural techniques through the work of MCC partner Office of Development of Evangelical Churches and they have changed his life.

Half-moons help capture rainwater during storms. These conservation agriculture techniques help control erosion, improve soil fertility, and increase water retention in the soil. Tiendrébeogo now saves food in case of emergency and grows enough to feed his whole family. 

Syrian refugees access trauma counselling in MCC-supported schools

In Beirut, Lebanon, refugee children from Syria often struggle at school. In addition to overcoming past trauma, they find it difficult to succeed academically and fit in socially. MCC’s partner House of Light and Hope provides informal educational support and other services for refugee girls and Lebanese peers growing up in vulnerable life situations. In partnership with House of Light and Hope, MCC funds after-school academic support, home visits, trauma healing camps, and more for girls ages 8-18.

MCC sees hope inspired by people and partners like these, who live the power of the resurrection in their daily lives.

Rachel Bergen is a staff writer for MCC Canada