Church Groups Essential for Relief

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Pastor Shares Perspective from the Ground

Story by Christmas Beeler
Report and photos by Pastor Jed Gourley

As the world watches the Ukrainian war from a distance, the efforts of believers on the ground in and around Ukraine are being noticed and lauded—even by secular organizations. On the same day that Mercy Corps stated that the normal humanitarian aid channels in Ukraine had “broken down” and that “church groups” have been key to many people’s survival, Pastor Jed Gourley related his first-person account of the relief efforts of Calvary Chapel pastors and believers. Joining together from several different countries, they are getting much-needed aid into Ukraine’s war-torn neighborhoods. 

An Injection of Hope
Eastern Ukraine has been pummeled brutally, and many have been in desperate need of essential medicines like insulin for days. Getting the medicine to the critical areas requires traveling into the hot spots, the dangerous war zones at the front lines where the conflict is still ongoing. Men must risk their lives to save lives. Yet these believers are impelled by the Lord to do what they have been doing for years: minister to the hurting.

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Pastor Jed Gourley (left) and two other men load a truck full of aid to be taken into Eastern Ukraine, which has been heavily ravaged by more than five weeks of war. Every trip is bathed in prayers for safety.

 

“We just sent thyroid medicine … to Lviv yesterday. And others in our group purchased insulin in Germany and a refrigeration truck to take it in. It is being delivered now,” said Pastor Jed Gourley last week. He pastors a church in Tbilisi, Georgia, and formerly served as a full-time missionary in Ukraine with his wife Renee, daughter of CC missionary pioneers George and Pam Markey. “A big need now is for medicines, as well as food. We have semi-trucks of food going into Ukraine every other day now,” he said. “And then Ukrainian people in the country are coming in smaller vehicles, loading up, and driving it throughout the country, risking their lives. They are real heroes to their people.”

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A warehouse that was given to the relief effort where supplies are safely gathered outside of Ukraine.

 

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Precious supplies of food and medicine await shipment on large trucks. Delivering it to those who need it most requires braving the hot zones on the front lines.

 

Churches Bridge the Gap
Mercy Corps representatives relate how the efforts of church groups have been essential for the survival of many in Ukraine.

“The reality is that right now the humanitarian system is entirely broken down. We are not seeing a high-functioning, coordinated international aid effort covering the whole of Ukraine like we often see in other conflict zones,” said Mercy Corps’ Ukraine humanitarian response adviser Steve Gordon from Kharkiv on March 22. At least 70% of the population of Kharkiv and Sumy is entirely dependent on aid, he noted, as Kharkiv is the site of some of the heaviest fighting since the Russian invasion on February 24.

The Mercy Corps spokesman added, “Many people are only surviving through support from small … organizations like church groups, which are coordinating essential deliveries such as food and medical supplies. These amazing volunteer networks are working as hard as they can, but they are stretched to the max.”

When a friend in the U.S. asked what she could do, Jed answered: “With so much division in our country, I am not even sure what our government can do or has the will to do. Seems like people helping people is the best that can be done right now.”

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With so many displaced from the war, Calvary Chapel Tbilisi has doubled in size—at standing-room-only last week. Pastor Jed recently ordered 20 more audio devices to assist with translation into different languages, including Ukrainian.

 

Pastor Jed traveled to Hungary in March to continue coordinating relief efforts with other Calvary Chapel leaders, helping to establish a pipeline for relief to come into Central Ukraine. He met with “transportation coordinators, bus drivers, security consultants, and heads of mission agencies.” He also visited a warehouse donated for “deliveries of bulk food, medicine, and other aid that will then be packed up and driven into Ukraine.” The group purchased three 18-wheelers which are now taking “larger amounts of aid [from that warehouse] to those places of greatest need.”

One Pastor’s First-Hand Perspective
By Pastor Jed Gourley, from his newsletter updates on March 22 and April 4

The Situation in Ukraine
What is the current status of things in Ukraine? Well, of course it’s terrible. It’s war. It’s suffering. I am currently sitting near a school listening to children laugh and play, while knowing that all over Ukraine kids are forced to race to bomb shelters where they sit for hours or even days huddled in darkness. I wake up from my silent sleep to reports of missiles that have destroyed the neighborhoods of people that I deeply love. I receive phone calls and texts begging for help in getting 140 people out of the basement of a demolished church in Mariupol, or assistance in evacuating 120 orphans to a place of safety anywhere, or of requests to get needed medicine to elderly who are caught behind enemy lines. I fight to keep hate from filling my heart while a mixture of love and helplessness overflow into tears.

                  

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We are witnessing the decimation of thousands of innocent lives. We are watching as world powers talk of peace from the comfort of their presidential suites while piles of bodies are waiting to be buried. We are working to pour out what seems to be an infinitesimally small amount of care into a vast ocean of loss, pain, and tragedy. Families are being ripped apart as wives and children flee to other countries, never knowing if they will ever see their husbands and fathers again.

However, even in our feelings of helplessness, so many of you are doing the most helpful thing. Your prayers are reaching God’s throne room. Your intercession for the Ukrainian people is encouraging. Your generous financial gifts have been overwhelming. Thank you for your love. Thank you for being the body of Christ!

Family of 12 Rescued
A [Christian] family we dearly love (pictured below) had been trapped in Russian-controlled territory for three weeks. A mother with 12 children, most of whom are foster children, communicated with us every day about the soldiers and military vehicles in the streets. The executed body of a townsman was left on the street as a warning for no one to leave their homes. They spent most of their nights in the basement of their village home. When stores of food diminished, they were able to survive on potatoes given to them by their neighbors. After 10 teams that I sent failed to yield any results, the family themselves managed to flee their home, running through fields for hours to a nearby town where they were able to take a bus to safety. We were then able to pick them up on a bus and bring them to Western Ukraine where plans are currently being made for their resettlement in different countries.

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A Christian mother with 12 children, most of whom are foster children, waited and prayed for three weeks to be able to escape Russian-controlled territory. With soldiers, military vehicles, and dead bodies in the streets, she and the children hid in the basement and waited. When their food ran out, kindly neighbors gave them potatoes. After 10 rescue teams failed to reach them, the Lord opened a way for them to escape on their own, running through fields for hours to a nearby town and a bus to safety.

 

Day 40
Today [April 4] marks 40 days since Russia began its most recent and deadly of incursions into the sovereign nation of Ukraine. As Ukraine has now recaptured entire cities and regions from the invaders, the vast destruction and extensive war crimes committed by Russia are being documented, mourned, and memorialized.

What's next? I am convinced that the resilience and rise of the Ukrainian people will be one of the greatest stories of the 21st century. It is currently being written—written with their own blood. They are a people of love, liberty, and faith, and they will persevere until they can love, live, and worship freely again. On the 40th day of the biblical flood, the waters ceased. Today I pray that the rain of war will stop in Ukraine.

Evacuations & Aid
Recently I received the news that a family of three whom I had been attempting to evacuate over the last month finally made it out. And when they left, they took 117 other people with them! Vans and cars were filled up in this former Russian-occupied town, and these multitudes of people were brought to safety. And these stories are being repeated in areas around Ukraine. However, other cities remain where it is virtually impossible to get aid in or people out of them.

This past week I assisted with the evacuation of an American humanitarian aid worker. She was followed, threatened, intimidated, and accosted. Other unmentionable things happened to her, but today she is safe in a European country.

Also, there is a large family whom I had been assisting to evacuate from a challenging location. At this moment, they are on their way to Tbilisi! One of the daughters in this family is due to deliver any day, so we are praying that they get here soon and that we are able to find a place for them to stay and a hospital lined up where she will be able to deliver the baby.

After an insulin factory was recently bombed, many people began requesting insulin. Others we are working with were able to purchase a refrigerated truck and take two large loads of insulin into Ukraine. Just a few days ago I was able to purchase almost 2,000 boxes of thyroid medicine and place it onto a Ukrainian embassy truck for transport to those that we know who are in need of this important medicine.

Prayer Requests
Pray for another team from our church in Tbilisi that is currently serving over 100 refugees in Hungary. Pray that they will have the strength and love that is needed to minister to those who are readjusting to life away from their homes, language, and everything they know. And please pray for more Russian/Ukrainian speakers who can go there to serve these beautiful people.

Continue to pray for those who have experienced trauma, loss of home and loved ones. We know that God is the great Healer and the One who can meet the deepest of needs. May the Lord provide for them materially, emotionally, and spiritually during this tragic time.

Pray for Renee's brothers who are continuing their own process of resettling in Hungary and who will be instrumental in serving Ukrainians throughout Europe. In many ways, they are refugees, having fled the country where they have been serving for the past 30 years. Pray for those wonderful Ukrainian friends who have moved to Budapest and who, themselves still tender from loss and transition, are attempting to serve their own people with the love of Christ.

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Pastor Jed got to visit his son Josh (right) who is now serving a second time in Hungary. Formerly serving with the Gourleys in Georgia, Michelle Talaski (left) is overseeing the Calvary team and administrating the needs of the refugees in a location in Hungary.

 

                  

How can you help?
If you are looking for a way to partner through us to get funds to refugees who need it, we have opened up a Ukrainian Refugee Fund with Shepherd's Staff, our sending organization. We have complete oversight of all money that is given there. You can join us and others who are ministering to Ukrainian refugees in both Europe and Ukraine by making your tax-deductible contribution to: Shepherd's Staff/Ukrainian Refugee Fund

Or donate through CC San Diego

To receive regular reports from Pastor Jed, sign up here: The Gourleys' Newsletter

                  

(To learn more about Calvary Bible Institute, visit their website or read our past coverage on the school)

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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.