After passing multiple military checkpoints, we visited a neighborhood that is cut off from town, which has had no electricity, water or gas for 11 months. The homes in town all have damage from attacks, some which are now uninhabitable. The townspeople still gather for church, even though it is dangerous to do so, as large crowds of people are targets. Sandbags are placed over the church windows to prevent gunfire from penetrating the building and hopefully keeping them safe.
We held a church service, and their worship to God was so intense you could feel their love for God in their voices, despite not being able to understand the words. They worshipped at a place of trust, despite their hardships and loss.
With no utilities, they have been surviving on what shelf stable products are brought into town. We delivered bread and water after church, which they were incredibly grateful for.
While we were in another refugee camp, rapid gunfire broke out nearby, and then a series of bombs could be heard. The people continued to worship with no notice, as this is everyday life for them. Again we distributed bread and water. This town is blessed in that it has milking cows, and as an act of thanks we were given about a gallon of fresh milk. The church has worked to help some of the neighborhoods in the area by providing chickens as well, so that they can have eggs.
The next day we spent time at several churches that specifically reach out to the refugee children. The church is doing a phenomenal job of providing food when the children are able to attend, as well as engaging them in fun activities. The kids loved the attention we gave them, and high-fiving us. We helped served lunch to them which was a rice and meat dish called plov, pickles, some bread with meat and cheese, and juice. These kids have so much to overcome, but yet gave us nothing but smiles, hugs, and laughs.
Another project the church is working on is helping people rebuild homes. We toured a neighborhood that had been completely destroyed. It resembled many of the tornado-ravaged areas we have been to. We were told it was too dangerous to walk on the grass, as there may be undetonated mines that we might step on. Just next door, though, was a home they had scraped down to the foundation and rebuilt. I simply cannot wrap my mind around raising my family in these conditions, but they know no other way of life.
Additionally shocking to me is that most people we told we would be going to Ukraine responded with something like, "Oh, what's going on there?" because the American media is not reporting it.
My heart is forever changed and I feel a love for the people of Ukraine. I am excited about working towards helping the church find even better ways of providing food resources to the refugees through Mercy Chefs.