Calvary Van Rescues: A Way to Safety

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Calvary Chapel Pastors: Sharing Christ's Love In A War Zone

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos courtesy of Phil Metzger

Calvary Chapel pastors are following Jesus into the war zones of Ukraine, and God has used them to ferry hundreds of women, children, and elderly to safety. Every day, those in the Calvary relief effort have seen God’s faithfulness, protection, and divine connections.

Some even braving danger, Calvary Chapel pastors from Ukraine, several Eastern bloc countries, and the U.S. are joining forces to help rescue families in Ukraine as the brutal Russo-Ukrainian War continues. More than 2 million people—half of them children—have fled Ukraine in less than two weeks since Russian troops invaded on February 24.

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Five Calvary Chapel pastors with longtime ties to Eastern Europe stand in front of a van they are using to assist refugees from the fighting in Ukraine. From left to right, they are Phil Metzger, Michael Payne, Jon Markey, Aaron Markey, and Paul Billings.

The nearly 20 Calvary Chapel churches in Ukraine have close ties and quickly formed a network to help when the crisis erupted. Working together, the believers are seeing God’s hand invisibly orchestrating rescue efforts and going before them. Others in the Calvary family have come from other countries to work alongside the Ukrainian believers. One team helping to evacuate families and bring supplies using several vans includes Calvary Chapel Pastors Phil Metzger (Calvary San Diego, CA), Michael Payne (White Fields Community Church, Longmont, CO), Jon Markey (CC Ternopil, Ukraine), Aaron Markey (CC Ternopil), and Paul Billings (CC).

God’s Hand at Work
Feeling an urgency from the Lord, a Ukrainian man who is a leader in one of the Calvary Chapels drove a van to the front lines of the battle to evacuate as many people as he could. After several successful trips, he was suddenly caught in the crossfire of battle. Bullets hit his vehicle, his van sputtered and died, and he had to flee, leaving it behind. Undaunted, he prayed that the Lord would supply another passenger van—a seemingly impossible request.

Meanwhile, Pastor Phil Metzger—who served in Hungary for 20 years and now pastors a church in San Diego—felt a call from the Lord to return to Hungary and purchase vans for the rescue effort. Reuniting with local Calvarys in Hungary, the team was able to buy several vans. Hearing about the man whose vehicle had just been shot up, the team gave him a van so he could continue his work on the front lines.

“This is not a unity that we can create; it’s something God is orchestrating,” testified Pastor Phil. “It was just the Lord’s timing. This man is risking his life every day, joyfully, because he loves Jesus so much.” Phil estimates that this man has already saved hundreds of lives of those who had been trapped in dangerous ‘hot zones.’

The Calvary team has seen many incidents of God working amidst the rescue effort, supplying needs and opening doors amidst the chaos.

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CC Pastors Phil Metzger (left) and Paul Billings (right) attach a red cross to the van. The red cross symbolizes that they are simply trying to assist fleeing refugees. More than 2 million people—half of them children—have fled Ukraine in less than two weeks, in what the United Nations calls Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

“We badly needed baby formula,” recalled Phil, “and we were driving all over [in Western Ukraine], and nobody had it. We tried store after store. Finally, one guy said, ‘Let’s try there.’ We went in, and they had everything we needed. When they heard we were helping Ukrainian people, they said, ‘Take it all’ even though most places were limiting supplies.”

At a border crossing, a Hungarian guard questioned the team about how their supplies would be delivered. Phil showed him their papers. As they spoke, the guard looked him in the eye and said discreetly, “If you use those papers, then I have to search everything. If you tell me that you are going to take these items across personally, then I would just let you through.” 

Phil recalled, “I realized in that moment that this guard wanted to help us across, and that God was opening the door to get us through.” In a matter of minutes, they were across the border. Time and again, Phil recounted, “God just gave us favor to get through check points and the borders—even when others were held back, He let us through.”

See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Revelation 3:8b

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Many Christians have stepped up in the war effort, braving hot zones to rescue those in dangerous front-line locations. The vans are used to help mostly women, children, and elderly escape, as the men stay behind to fight for their country.

Divine Connections
Pastor Jed Gourley, originally from the U.S., has served in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and currently in Georgia, bordering Russia. He has been working 18-hour days from behind his computer, monitoring live feeds from within Ukraine. His role: connecting those in need with supplies, drivers with rendezvous points, groups of people waiting for a safe way out. He also helped start a fund with Shepherd’s Staff for evacuations and supplies.

How did he end up in this role? His heart heavy for the country where he used to serve, Jed looked for a way to help. “I found somebody who had a bus, and then I asked people if anyone needed a bus. From there it just snowballed,” he recalled. Coordinating amidst chaos is a challenge of its own—but the sovereign hand of God is evident.

“Time after time, working with these evacuations, I’m amazed that all of a sudden this or that appears, and it’s the right time, the right place, and people have just enough time to make it,” said Jed. “It’s just amazing how that works out, and then it’s so wonderful to hear that they made it across the border.”


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“Right now there is a lady with children who tried to get out, but the driver could only get within an hour and a half of them,” he explained. “Someone found out about them through a friend, and this person in England had contacts who [can help].” Another amazing connection was a woman who had been given money to fund Ukrainian Bibles but didn’t know where to get them printed, and a man with a Bible league that prints Ukrainian Bibles in a bordering country calling Jed’s group the same day.

He’s helping connect people in the States, Western Europe, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and other countries. Pastor Jed, who helped the Markeys plant churches in Ukraine for about 14 years, noted, “We have people in these other countries who are connected because Calvary Chapel has been in Eastern Europe so long. So now you have local people in all these countries, like Poland, that were working already to bring them in and get them help.” Poland has received nearly 1 million refugees out of the 2 million who have fled Ukraine in less than two weeks.

Jed reflected: “I see God working through His Church, as the hands and feet of Christ. And the Church is doing what it’s supposed to be doing—showing the love of God to people that God loves in the midst of sin and suffering and despair and pain. The Bible says that God is near to the brokenhearted; that’s our God.”

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

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Vans were purchased by the Calvary Chapel teams to assist Ukrainians trying to flee the violence. The nearly 20 Calvary Chapel churches in Ukraine have close ties and quickly formed a network to help. Working together, the believers are seeing God’s hand invisibly orchestrating rescue efforts and going before them. Recently, one of the drivers was caught unexpectedly in the crossfire of battle. Bullets hit his vehicle, his van sputtered and died, and the man had to flee, leaving it behind. Undaunted, he prayed that the Lord to bring Him another vehicle. God provided through the Van Initiative.

Unbreakable Spirit
Both pastors praise the Calvary Chapel believers in Ukraine for their sacrifice, unity of purpose, mutual faith, and love for God and those in need—evidenced by the harmonious group that is working across borders to save families. It’s a lesson in unity and courage for the Church worldwide, noted Jed and Phil.

Phil added, “We’ve seen a real spirit of generosity among the Ukrainian people. There was one couple who lost everything but gave us a ride when we needed it, and I gave them a little money and thanked them. The guy texted me later; they had used the money to buy socks for the Ukrainian soldiers.”

Ukraine is a sovereign nation, Phil explained, with their own language and culture. Though once forced to be part of the U.S.S.R., they regained their independence when the Iron Curtain fell in 1989. Cherishing that freedom, the Ukrainian people are doing all they can to save their country, Phil explained. “Everything is at stake for them—not just their lives, but their very existence as a nation. They are literally losing everything they have—the life they had has been ripped away from them. And they don’t know if they’ll ever get it back. It’s just devastating,” he said, adding, “I have not met one person who has [escaped] that isn’t already feeling guilt over leaving their people—even women and children. Even some of the missionary kids wish they could go back in to help people. They have been raised to understand that our life is not our own.” Mothers who have evacuated children see that as their role in the resistance—to keep the future of Ukraine alive, he said, even if that means fleeing for a season.

“The Ukrainian church is strong,” Phil said. “I sat in an apartment with Ukrainian believers, young men and women, who were worshiping and praying in an apartment in the dark because they couldn’t turn the lights on since the bomb sirens were blaring around us. They are worshiping and seeking and crying out to God.” He added, “I believe that … many more people are going to give their lives to Christ during this time. Tragedy causes us to think about eternity. I met a girl who told me that her friend wasn’t a Christian when they left [to evacuate], but during that journey, she gave her life to Christ.”

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (ESV)

Pastor Phil added, “Nobody wants this terrible war, but God has a way of working in the darkness.”


To support the Calvary Chapel rescue effort:
• Donate to the Ukrainian Refugee Fund with Shepherd's Staff
• To give through CC San Diego (Pastor Phil Metzger), click here


(Click here to read more about and to register for the Bridge for Life conference)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.