While many watched from a distance as bombs exploded and Russian troops advanced into Ukraine, for Jeff Roper, global associate director to Europe and MENACA with Foursquare Missions International (FMI), Russia’s recent invasion of Europe’s second-largest nation has an up close and personal meaning.
“These are not just faceless people,” says Jeff, who is based in northern Italy. “These are Dmitriy, Alexandr and Olga. These are our friends. These are people whose homes are being destroyed.”
They are also the kind of people Foursquare seeks to help as FMI joins Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) in a special fundraising effort, labeled “Foursquare’s Response to Russia’s War on Ukraine.” Setup costs are expected to run around $50,000, with Phase 1 emergency response costs possibly reaching $500,000. Response will be adapted as funds are received.
“The need is immense and overwhelming, but so is the opportunity for the Foursquare family to together embody the love of Jesus by meeting urgent needs right in the middle of war,” says Emily Plater, Foursquare’s director of shared mission. “Your giving equips those on the front line to offer hope and help to those who need it most.”
“These are not just faceless people. These are Dmitriy, Alexandr and Olga. These are our friends. These are people whose homes are being destroyed.” —Jeff Roper, global associate director to Europe and MENACA
Equipped to respond quickly
When Russia invaded Ukraine in the last week of February, FDR was almost immediately releasing finances and resources to people on the ground, providing emergency food supplies and other aid, as well as temporary housing. Also assisting in this effort are Foursquare churches in Poland, Slovakia, Romania and beyond, who are helping house and care for some of the more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees.
“We’ve been able to get resources to our workers serving throughout bordering nations to provide housing, food, medicine, blankets—everything you can imagine,” Jeff reports. “We’ve been able to get resources to an orphanage run by The Foursquare Church in Ukraine. They had to spend time in a bunker as their city was being bombarded by Russian bombs.”
The war will impact Foursquare churches in both nations in dire, life-transforming ways. Between them, Russia and Ukraine have 40 Foursquare churches, several training institutes, drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministries, and orphanages. FMI has had to evacuate workers in Russia. With most Foursquare churches in Ukraine based in larger cities, many pastors and church members have had to flee because of attacks, though men ages 18-60 are now required to stay in Ukraine.
Foursquare Ukraine’s National Leader Dmitriy Mason was at a safe house in the western part of the country the week after the invasion, but texted Jeff to say that he doesn’t plan to leave Ukraine.
“I want to be with my people as much as possible,” Dmitriy said in the text. “I have entered the military register and am ready to fulfill my duty. But I must prepare my children first.”
Another Foursquare leader from Ukraine texted an FMI worker to ask: “If anything happens to me, will you make sure my wife and son are taken care of?”
On the Russian side of the border, Foursquare members are praying for peace and the welfare of Ukraine; they do not support this war. The Russian economy is in freefall. According to an FMI official, the effects of international sanctions, low pay and high inflation always harm the poor the most.
Outside Ukraine and Russia, Jeff says FMI workers are doing an “exemplary” job of mobilizing people to care for refugees. By Mar. 1 they had relocated and resettled more than 200 refugees.
“They’re doing a great job, overwhelmed by the need,” Jeff explains. “Poland and Romania as well have workers who are housing people and getting people help. They are heroes. They are stepping up to the plate and driving long distances—as many as 18 or 20 hours—to pick up people at the border. It has taken them several days to travel a short distance because it’s taking so long to get across the border.”
Responding to the call
Beyond the geopolitical realities of what this war entails, there is a humanitarian call that Jesus has placed on all Christians: to be a neighbor. Jeff says the reason Foursquare members around the world should be concerned about helping in this time of need is we cannot turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the cries of help from this war’s victims.
He also points out that donations to the special disaster relief effort will enable Foursquare to respond to humanitarian needs that will continue long after the war ends and news media have moved on to covering other conflicts.
“Our long-term strategy must always be in place,” Jeff asserts. “Not only are we responding to the immediate crisis, but we also want to be responding to their long-term rebuilding crisis. When everybody else is gone, Foursquare Ukraine and the global Foursquare family will still be in Ukraine, putting lives back together.”