A Carson-Newman University staffer has secured the assistance of local Baptist associations and churches in East Tennessee to aid his native country in war-torn Ukraine.
The needs in Ukraine are many, said Vova Gorbenko, who fled to the United States and eventually ended up in Jefferson City where he is now the university’s assistant director of campus ministries. He also is a guest professor, teaching New Testament in the school of biblical and theological studies.
“What’s happening there right now is that the Russians have attacked the infrastructure,” he said. “They are destroying electric plants, electric equipment and heating plants — along with other buildings. That is their goal. Since they cannot win the war militarily, they want to stir up social unrest.”
He added, “People are without electricity or heat in their apartments. Right now in Zaporizhzhia, the electricity is turned off twice a day for six hours. Right now, it’s cold. It will still be cold through March and at the beginning of April,” he said.
‘Desire to help’
“It has always been my desire to help somehow — not just in Ukraine, but especially the southeastern part of the country. That’s where we are from,” he said.
Gorbenko spoke in September at a combined meeting of Jefferson County and East Tennessee Baptist associations.
“I was impressed with his message as he shared about the Ukraine,” recalled John Pinkston, associational missionary of Jefferson County Association.
Gorbenko contacted him later and shared the needs, especially in the winter months. Pinkston informed the association, and “our churches have embraced the opportunity.”
“I can just imagine the despair of the Ukrainians,” he said. “We had 15 minutes during the recent cold snap in December when our power was off. I thought about how scary it would have been (if) the electricity had not come back on. That sent me to my knees in prayer.”
True Life Church in Jefferson City, and a member of Nolachucky Baptist Association, joined the effort and began collecting items and donations as well.
“It has been a blessing to meet Vova and his family,” said Jimmy Inman, teaching pastor. “He is a godly man who has a heart for his people. When he approached us about helping with this project, our thought was that we have prayed for Ukraine and wanted to do something to assist but didn’t know what to do so we were thrilled to have the opportunity.
“It seems that God has providentially aligned Dr. Gorbenko, some local churches and associations and amazing ministries like God’s Warehouse and Harvest For Israel to partner together to collect and deliver support to these hurting people,” he added.
In the meantime, Gorbenko contacted Don Owen of God’s Warehouse, a ministry of NBA, who agreed to ship a container of supplies to Ukraine.
Last year, God’s Warehouse shipped four containers with humanitarian aid to Moldova and Poland to support Ukraininan war refugees.
Because nothing flies into Ukraine, Gorbenko developed a plan of how distribution would be possible through contacts in that region who could help navigate customs. Once items were there, they would go to Baptist churches to be distributed to those in need.
“And, once I had these dots connected in my mind, I approached Don Owen and asked him if we can do it. And he was very gracious. He’s a wonderful person. He basically said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
The first container will be shipped Feb. 14. It costs approximately $10,000 to ship each container, Owen noted. “We know God will provide through His people,” he said.
The container will contain blankets, flashlights and batteries, power banks (especially solar), warm shoes, candles, canned food, medicines for colds, congestion, sores and rashes, towels and bedding and more.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Charles Key and Lonnie Wilkey and originally published by Baptist and Reflector.