Blog from Kristy Engel . . .

Ukraine Relief Work, December 2022

Deuteronomy 15:7, “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”

John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I think the above two verses are what compel me to continue serving around the world. My “community” is pretty much everywhere I see or can get to on a flight from ATL! No longer is my (our) community bound by state borders or even country borders. Our neighbors are all the folks we read about or hear about in the daily news. And our neighbors are suffering.

This last September, I was asked by Hungarian Baptist Aid to help with mobile medical clinics to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who had moved from war-torn areas of Ukraine to the western border towns. It was a no-brainer for me. I had the skill set, I saw a need, and I could go. The details of going were a bit more difficult! 

My mission agency, International Ministries, recognized that insurance that normally covers my travel might not cover travel into Ukraine. They also weren’t sure they wanted me to go to a country at war! But my heart had been breaking for months as I listened to the trauma inflicted upon the common citizens in Ukraine, and I knew that God would find a way. And God did! A few days of intense conversations, inquiries at the insurance agency, and lots of prayer, and all was a go…just 5 days before my flight was to leave in early December!

I led a team of 4 health workers; 2 physicians, a physician’s assistant, and myself, a nurse practitioner. The two physicians were also missionaries with International Ministries and the volunteer had worked with me both in the Dominican Republic and in Bolivia. I knew we had a wonderful team, and we were committed to serve however needed.

The first time we saw God’s provision, during the trip, was when Melissa and I rolled 8 duffels full of medications and supplies (plus our personal luggage!) right by customs officers in Budapest without a second glance! We were holding our breath but not even a concern. We immediately loaded the baggage into our transport van and drove off towards Ukraine. To get into Ukraine, we had to pass through 4 different checkpoints (police and immigration for each country) and knew that if they searched the van, we would likely have to pay fees on the medicines and supplies. 

We went through the first checkpoint without a glance. Then the second one…easy-peasy! Now we were into Ukraine and passing through their checkpoints. The first one in Ukraine was also very simple. We even began commenting that we were surprised it was so easy when everyone had been worried. Our driver, and security officer, let us know that the worst was yet to come. He suggested we be prepared for the final checkpoint and expect it to be long and complicated. So, we prayed.

We pulled up to the barrier and were the only vehicle in sight. They had plenty of time to search our vehicle. And just as the passports were given through the window, a large bus pulled up next to us! The officer turned to look, sighed, and passed our passports back through the window without a second glance inside the van! God provided again! The driver said he had not ever had such an easy border crossing since the war began.

For me, it was simply confirmation that God’s hand was upon us. Each day, as we met more and more IDP’s or orphans or Roma communities, we saw how God placed us at that location at just the right time. Wounds were tended to, hugs were shared, and the light and love of Jesus enveloped all our work. The gratitude for our presence still makes me glow, not because we were thanked, but because we were allowed into these communities to witness their suffering but also their kindness to each other.

We have a lot to learn from the Ukrainians that I met. They are living out Jesus’ words to “love your neighbor as yourself” and God’s command not to be “tight-fisted” with your needy neighbor. These are people who have less than 3 hours of electricity a day…some only 45 min!…and yet it doesn’t keep them from sharing the little that they have…even when that little thing is an arm around a shoulder, a kind word, or a listening ear. 

I hope to return to Ukraine very soon and ask you to pray for this next visit. I also hope to share more stories with you at some point before I leave. It is my sincere prayer that the gratitude, kindness, gentleness, and community that is lived out in Ukraine will become a part of each of us, as well. We certainly have more “stuff” than anyone I met on my visit…maybe it’s time for all of us to take an accounting and recognize how we can use that “stuff” to serve our neighbor even more generously. It’s certainly made me reconsider all I have and all the possibilities. Thank you for your prayers and support that cover me everywhere I go, even into Ukraine!