Forty days ago (at point of writing) on 24/02/22, Ukraine was invaded and along with everyone else, Emma and I were shocked and horrified at what was happening. Providentially, we had an LHC meeting planned for 24/02 with our LHC brothers. About 12 of us pile into this meeting regularly. Of course, with the invasion just underway, we asked Edik to share what was happening from his perspective. As he spoke, it was so moving and shocking for us to see him interrupted by Liana, his wife, as she called out to him: They’re bombing Kharkiv – they’re bombing the cities! From this moment, we determined three things – that we would pray; that we would raise money and that we would visit Edik and Liana in Ukraine.
From the beginning, Emma felt stirred that we should begin a zoom prayer meeting for Ukraine and that we should continue in daily prayer until the war is over. And so we have done this – we gather to pray every morning at 06.30-07.15 BST. We began with 6 participants and this has, at times, been as many as 52. We use the psalms and we pray for our brothers and sisters, for Edik and Liana, for Ukraine and for Russia and for God to move in power. After 40 consecutive mornings of prayer it has become a bit of a way of life for us and it offers us a place to turn what we are reading and feeling about the war, into Spirit-inspired prayers of faith and longing.
If you would like to join us to pray, you are welcome (meeting ID: 948 272 8926 / passcode: 327931).
Along with others, we have watched as Russian missiles have fallen and as cities have been senselessly destroyed – people’s history, their present and their future being ripped away. We knew that God was calling us to raise money to support Edik and Liana’s ministry in Ukraine, and we were stirred to believe God for €100k. I am continuing to discover that my best efforts of faith are always surpassed by God’s love and generosity! At point of writing, the Lighthouse Community has received about €115k, and money continues to come in. It’s an extraordinary outpouring of love and generosity, expressed from churches (within and beyond RM), from individuals and from businesses. It’s been an amazing and humbling few weeks.
We felt early on that our focus within the LHC should be to particularly support those who are ministering within Ukraine and so, in the main, this money is being used to support the ministry and mission of Edik and Liana and the Rock of Salvation Church in Uzhgorod. Each month, the LHC (in partnership with our friends at Bishops Stortford Church) is supporting Edik and Liana’s ministry in the following ways:
- accommodation and living expenses for 18 refugees who have been housed in hotel rooms, is paid for;
- financial support is being given to 8 church members who are each providing accommodation and food for groups of 3-4 refugees;
- additional food and bedding is bought and given to refugees in Uzhgorod and also those passing through;
- a washing machine has been purchased to support refugees being cared for in a local Roma church;
- additional storage space has been rented to enable blankets and food to be stored and then distributed;
- churches relating to Edik receive regular amounts of financial support through him, in order to care for the poor among them;
- a larger space is now being rented by Edik for Sunday meetings, as the church has grown through their care for refugees;
We have also been able to support a long-standing missionary to Ukraine who was sent out in 2014 from Edgaras’ church in Plunge, Lithuania. Vaidas is currently working near Lviv where he helps to transport the wounded from Kyiv to Lviv and also to take medicines into war zones. He and his partners needed a car and we have been able to provide money for this.
On Thursday 17/03 Emma and I drove from Gdansk to the Slovakian / Ukrainian border, arriving there on Friday afternoon. We had a car-load of much needed blankets and quilts that Edik had asked for. The border crossing was very busy; cars were queuing in Ukraine to come into Slovakia for a number of kilometres and the crossing time was about 7 hours at that point. People were crossing on foot – one old lady crossed alone, shuffling along with two shopping bags and nothing else. As we crossed into Ukraine, hundreds of people were camped by the side of the road – fires were made and people were cooking and trying to stay warm, waiting to cross the border into Slovakia.
We crossed into Ukraine and met Edik and ate with him and the family that night. It was a privilege and a joy to be with them. The next day Edik and Liana took us to meet the refugees that they serve. Liana works as a manager of two hotels and has negotiated rooms at a cheaper price so that the church can house refugees there. She is a true Esther – a woman for such a time as this.
In the hotel we met a young couple – a famous blogger and his air-hostess girlfriend – who had escaped Kyiv. They were trying to come to terms with their new, upheaved life. Another young man, Nikita, had also left Kyiv and was trying to work out how to breathe new life into his online business that had lost 60% of its work. A mother had set up home in a hotel room in order to be able to cook specific food for her 12 year old daughter who suffers from liver disease. She had recently celebrated her 12th birthday and the balloons were still hanging from walls. Another couple were negotiating the fact that this is the second time they have had to flee their home as refugees – once in 2014 from the Donbas to Kyiv and now again, from Kyiv to Uzhgorod. This lady (in her mid-60s) broke down in tears as the enormity of leaving everything behind again weighed upon her. How do you muster the energy to start over in life when everything that you have worked for has been taken away – and how do you do that twice!
Another couple had arrived and the husband – a famous masseur, Alex – has been set up by Edik in a hotel room, where he offers free massages to traumatised refugees who continue to arrive. This simple and creative ministry has drawn people into the church where (yesterday 03/04) six of these people who had been blessed by Alex’s hands received Jesus and became Christians.
Story after story – there is so much more to say! Edik and Liana lead a fervent and praying and hopeful church. The Gospel is being preached, prayer and praise is expressed and the poor are cared for with love, sacrifice, creativity and faith.
Emma and I will be returning soon with a small team as we consider how we can better support them in the months to come. But we will also be returning because – quite simply – we were so blessed to be with them.
Edik and Liana: remarkable people, leading an extraordinary work.