Young Ukrainian refugee and father met with help and hope

“Are you looking for help? Do you need hope?”

A banner with these words printed over the Ukrainian flag hangs from tables where Romanian Christians and Send Relief teams interact with Ukrainian refugees at the border of Romania and Ukraine.

Oksana scans the Hope for Ukraine QR code at the station established by Romanian Baptists and now manned by a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team station on the border of Ukraine and Moldova. The website provides the opportunities to talk directly with Ukrainian and Russian-speaking Christians. IMB Photo

Oksana and her father see the banner and stop. She is from Mariupol – the Ukrainian city that resembles a scene from a dystopian novel.

“There is nothing there now,” Oksana says with pain in her eyes.

Oksana and her father left the city a month ago, taking refuge in another city before making their way to the border of Romania and Ukraine.

When asked if she still had family in Ukraine, she points to her father and says, “He’s my family.”

Send Relief volunteers from First Baptist Church of Folsom, Louisiana, direct Oksana’s father to a white plastic chair in between two tables of supplies. Lauren Robbins, a medical student from Liberty University, checks his blood pressure. Robbins’s father, Will, is the pastor of First Baptist Folsom. She traveled with him and other volunteers to serve Ukrainian refugees at the border and in refugee centers.

Lauren Robbins takes the blood pressure of Oksana’s father. Robbins is a medical student at Liberty University. She traveled with a Send Relief team to the border of Romania and Ukraine. IMB Photo

Oksana scans the “Hope for Ukraine” QR code that leads to a website sharing the gospel and offering an avenue to talk with a Christian. The website was developed by the International Mission Board to connect with refugees and direct them toward Christ.

Robbins shows Oksana her father’s blood pressure reading. It’s very high, and she recommends he take medication. He says “thank you” in as many languages as he knows, his gratefulness for their help evident in his broad smile.

After accepting snacks and a cup of coffee, Oksana places her hand on her heart as a sign of thanks before she and her father walk away in search of a new home.

A few days later, Oksana messages to say she and her father were safely in Bulgaria and her father’s blood pressure has gone down. She asks to be sent the link to the Hope for Ukraine website so she can explore more.

Karen Stassi joined a team from First Baptist Church, Folsom, Louisiana, to use her medical skills at the border of Ukraine and Romania. IMB Photo

Karen Stassi, also from FBC Folsom, lent her medical expertise to assist refugees. Stassi has 40 years of nursing experience. A medical team from Cyprus asks if Stassi and Robbins can cover a shift at their medical station. Stethoscopes in hand, Stassi and Robbins cross the road to attend to the Ukrainian patients. The Cypriot volunteers have served refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos and traveled to meet the needs of another refugee demographic.

Goodwill abounds among the humanitarian organizations representing multiple countries – Israel, Malta, Egypt, Romania and the United States – who refer refugees to one another for aid. In addition to providing a charging station, snacks, juice boxes, tissue, coffee, tea and SIM cards, Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams (SBDR) from the Baptist state conventions of Missouri, Texas and California distribute pain relievers, antiseptic cream and reading glasses.

The greatest gift Southern Baptists offer, however, is not the medicine or the refreshments. It’s the love of Christ Southern Baptists give and the hope that a Savior has already provided the rescue.

Oksana and a friend pose for a photo in front of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief table near the border of Ukraine and Romania. IMB Photo