Such a time as this - Ali
Ali is an ECM Missionary in Berlin, Germany. She shares her firsthand experience of what it’s like to be in Europe at the moment…
It felt like such a long cold winter in Europe this year. The heaviness that comes with endless grey skies was compounded by another wave of COVID coming through. Everyone was tired. Then at the end of February, the sun finally came out and joy was felt all over the city. It seemed as though the worst was behind us and we could all look forward to being together again in the sunshine…then the war started.
We couldn’t believe it was really happening at first; it seemed so implausible that something like this could happen in Europe again, of all places, at this time in history. Then the reality kicked in hard as refugees started arriving at Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station), which is only 5 minutes from our local station. There was a sense of urgency as everyday families went to meet the first refugees with homemade signs, inviting them into their homes. And then they came, and came, and came. Thousands and thousands every day. Suddenly COVID was forgotten and the focus was entirely on Ukraine.
Having dealt with a refugee influx only 7 years ago with the people fleeing Syria, Berliners seemed to instinctively know what to do. A grassroots welcome hall in Hauptbahnhof was quickly established, with a flood of volunteers ready to help. In the beginning, volunteers who couldn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian were often turned away because there were simply so many locals wanting to help. There was last minute scrambling for canned goods, baby products and blankets. Car loads of supplies left from our local school. Locals are continuing to make the nine hour trip to the border to deliver supplies and collect refugees. Then they turn around and do it all again. ECM has organised a bus to be delivered to a church on the border which is hosting refugees and using their basement as a bomb shelter. The bus will be filled with supplies and will return filled with people.
Churches are actively getting involved, making connections with churches in Ukraine and helping to get people to safety. Berlin pastors have been connecting together and working out how to coordinate help. Suddenly our Sunday church service needed to adapt to the Ukrainian visitors coming. There was nowhere to order Ukrainian bibles, because they had all sold out. There are believers in Berlin who come together and pray publicly for Ukraine at the Hauptbahnhof, drawing believers from across the city to be a Christian presence, and hopefully being a connection point for refugees seeking encouragement and hope.
We hosted a dinner at our house which an elderly lady attended with her granddaughter. She wanted to read everyone a poem and she was happy to read the bible passage. She had never before left Ukraine, and here she was sharing a Berlin apartment with Australians! Her granddaughter showed us videos of the aftermath of the Russian bombings which occurred literally over their fence. Another family who visited told us about the split second decision to leave their home on the south coast of Ukraine because there was only one bridge left that could still be crossed. They decided to leave and the bridge was bombed only a short time later. They had to leave their cats behind.
Gosh, I’ve never known a situation where there is just such an endless list of things to pray for. ECM has been running online prayer meetings twice a week which has been an incredibly rich time of coming to God with all of our requests, needs and longings about this war. We are praying for the spiritual and practical needs of fellow ECM workers, and for believers in Ukraine to keep trusting the Lord. We had heard stories over the last few years of revivals happening in Ukraine. Even recently, we have heard of baptisms happening in basements and many coming to faith.
We panic regularly about what we should be doing and then feel helpless that we really aren’t doing enough. That’s the point we realise that this is not our fight; the battle is the Lord’s. We are constantly reminded to come first to him. He holds all things in his hands; he leads and directs our steps. It was a wonderful blessing to be reminded by a dear friend that the comfort that comes from the gospel is beyond the ‘comfort of a mattress’.
Pray that the believers who leave Ukraine can find encouragement and comfort through churches across Europe. Even though the authorities are now establishing large, well organised complexes for the influx of people, we can see that there will be ongoing needs and a role for churches to play as the weeks and months go on. Even if the war ends tomorrow, it will take months for infrastructure in the affected areas to be restored.
There is now an unfolding realisation that this latest refugee influx is only the tip of the iceberg. Pray for people across the world to open up their homes for Ukrainian families. Many are single mothers with children, as men between 18 and 60 are not permitted to leave the country.
Join the ECM International prayer meetings; they are public meetings. Pray for the Lord to direct our steps as his people in Berlin ‘for such a time as this’.
- For Rich and Ali's ministry to refugees
- For people across Europe and the world to take in refugees
- For Ukrainian Christians to keep trusting the Lord
You can financially support ECM's work in Ukraine here
This article is from ECM News Winter 2022