Although no longer in the spotlight, the Ukrainian Crisis which began more than three years ago is still on-going. Thousands of families suffer daily the consequences of this conflict.
Peter Blundell, a local plumber who grew up in Garstang and still lives in the town with his wife, Sarah and family spent a year working in Ukraine more than 16 years ago. So, when Garstang Free Methodist Church embarked on their year of missions abroad he decided to contact friends still living there to see if he could help.
Pete said: “Amazingly, I was put in touch with a young couple who remembered me living there. Misha had grown up in a children’s home I visited often and his wife Lena had been at an English camp I’d helped at when she was a child.
“Misha and Lena shared their hearts about wanting to plan a summer Family Camp, specifically for soldiers and their families impacted by the war. Although these families haven’t lost a husband or father as many others have, they are still deeply affected by the war; each of the children, wives and husbands themselves have all experienced first hand the effects of trauma and the cruelties of war.
“We jumped at the opportunity to be part of this and formed a small team to go and help them. We raised more than £2,500 through a car wash, coffee and cake days and donations to pay for the Ukrainians to attend.”
A team of seven people (including Pete and his mum, Netta) flew out to the Carpathian Mountains, Western Ukraine for 10 days. They joined a team of counsellors and chaplains who had experience in helping people who have gone through similar, terrible, things.
Pete said: “Our time was spent looking after the children, playing sport, singing, doing drama, making crafts and much more, which freed up the soldiers to receive teaching and support and counselling for PTSD and their wives were given the opportunity to share their life experiences together.
“The soldiers also told us their stories: it was very moving to hear how they’d lost friends and seen many people seriously injured. One, Valera spoke of how he was injured by a flash bomb whilst in Kiev at the Maiden protests in 2014 and then, as a soldier, he was involved in the fierce battle of Donetsk airport early in the war. Valera now regularly travels to the warzone as a chaplain. The horrors of war were evident in so many lives and we were all saddened by the brokenness and sorrow war brings.
“As Christians, we believe that God deeply loves and cares for each and every person. We wanted to show this love in practical ways and to testify to the difference God has made in our own lives.
“It was a truly incredible, humbling experience and a real privilege to be part of the camp. We made new friends and felt that, in a small way, we had given them encouragement and hope to face the future (as well as having lots of fun along the way.”
The Ukraine Team was the fourth of six teams the church is sending out this year as part of its ‘Year of International Mission’, the aim of each to get first-hand experience of life in very different, challenging settings and to share God’s love and help those far less fortunate than themselves. Teams have already worked with Syrian refugees in Greece, children in Uganda and people in great need in Cambodia, with further missions to the Ukraine and to Senegal this month.
It’s been an incredible year so far and lives have been changed - both the people the teams have met overseas and in their own homes in Garstang. By the end of the year a quarter of the church will have been on mission with the rest of the church family supporting and praying and loving the stories on return.
If you’d like any further information, please contact John Sainsbury, Lead Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.