The breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine may be out of the headlines, but the devastation caused by the deluge in June will be felt for generations. Here’s a flavour of how Christian leaders and their rapid response teams are serving the vulnerable in this highly challenging and desperate situation.
The flooding in Kherson, filmed by Pastor Yevhen
Roman, one of a five-person team, explained that they sought to provide a broad-ranging holistic response to the tragedy that factored in the many different types of situation they were likely to encounter. This involved preparing to meet not only people’s physical needs, but their mental and spiritual ones too. The first priority was to use boats to evacuate the vulnerable from inundated houses, and then to distribute emergency supplies, such as food, water, medicine, bedding and clothing, as well as helping find alternative accommodation for those who had been made homeless.
The landscape has been absolutely brutalised by the flooding. The water reached the rooftops in some places and caused many houses to collapse. Certain areas remained flooded for over two weeks, leaving properties full of mud, debris and residual water. Roman spoke of the strong smell that greeted volunteers, as they provided the much-needed muscle to pump out buildings, scrape ruined plaster off walls, and clear away all that had been dislodged, damaged or destroyed. Some of the work had to be done in complete darkness (with the use of head-lamps), because houses lacked electricity and basements often had little natural light.
The sense of loss runs deep in a community that has already suffered greatly from the Russian onslaught and being occupied for nearly 9 months. Vitaly spoke of the grief of one family who had not only seen their house destroyed by the water, but had lost their beloved dog, Chestnut, which was particularly distressing for their children. The team went to salvage what they could from the property and were both surprised and pleased to find Chestnut still alive, having been trapped under the rubble for an entire week.
Some of the teams are focusing on the rural areas that received less attention from other volunteers. In one village they encountered a young family who, despite the flooding, had taken on the task of feeding an entire army unit. In another, that appeared to be totally deserted, they discovered an elderly lady, who had decided to stay not only when the Russians occupied the area, but when the floodwaters subsequently came. Like many Ukrainians, she had remained in her home, because that is where her heart was.
Christian leaders continue to serve the region, as there is still vast need. Although they face dangers from shelling and dislodged mines, as one leader explains, the church teams are united in drawing inspiration from Jesus commissioning his disciples (John 17). Sustained by God’s power and coordinating their wider efforts together over a Telegram group (a social media app), they remain steadfast in their desire to take Jesus’ light to the most needy, and to bring people hope.
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