Offering food and shelter, Russian evangelicals are caring for the Donbas’s displaced. But in the face of Ukrainian frustration, dare they offer pastors for its empty pulpits?
Disoriented and disheveled, the elderly Ukrainian woman stayed put in her seat. After several hours in a Temporary Accommodation Center (TAC) in Taganrog, Russia, 70 miles east of her month-long basement shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, officials encouraged her to get on the bus—to somewhere else.
Earlier that day, she had been discovered by Russian soldiers and ushered through a humanitarian corridor to the first processing location east of Mariupol. From there she was dispatched to one of 800 such sites established throughout Russia, which are located anywhere from nearby Rostov to Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.
Official papers registered her for temporary residency in Russia and access to its medical system. She was given a warm meal, new clothes, $142 in rubles, and a SIM card—though not a mobile phone. She could apply for citizenship if she desired.
All she wanted was to die.
Grandma, where are you going? Is someone coming to meet you?
No one is coming. Nobody wants me.
You have to go to a shelter. You can’t stay here.
I don’t want to live any longer. I wish I had died in the shelling.
Where are your children, or grandchildren?
I don’t know. They left. I can’t find them.
Government employees had done their duty. But after this exchange, a Russian evangelical volunteer sprang into action. After a few phone calls, she placed the woman with a local church family. The next day, she located the granddaughter.
“When we are genuinely involved in their lives, they see the love of Christ,” said Tanya Ivanenko. “They hug us, kiss us, and remember our names. Against the backdrop of war, we give them a little hope.”
Ivanenko did not provide the care, but she shared the grandmother’s …