17th September 2023

Baltic Global Initiative (BGI) is a Latvia-based mission that BBI partners with from time to time.  BGI is best known in Latvia for its annual “Star in the East” shoe box campaign for refugee children.  Each year, in late fall, churches, organisations and individuals all over Latvia made up shoe boxes that were collected and placed in a shipping container and sent to a needy part of the world. The war in Ukraine has changed many things in our world, including the Star in the East shoe box campaign. Founder and president, pastor Pēteris Eisāns, explains,

“When I asked our partners in Ukraine what was most needed, they talked about beds.  With so many internally displaced people in the country, beds for children became a priority over shoe boxes.  This was a hard change for us from a branding perspective as our campaign had always been about shoe boxes, however, people responded well and we were able to collect enough money to build 200 beds.” 

Material for the beds was purchased locally and Ukrainian refugees were employed to make the beds.  Once ready, they were put on a truck and shipped to the warehouse of another partner organisation, BACH BCA , in Chelm, Poland near the Ukrainian border.  From there, they were trucked into Ukraine.  

BACH BCA is a Polish Baptist charity lead by Jonasz Skrzypkowski.  They have shipped over 3,500 tonnes of food into Ukraine since the beginning of the war.  BBI has also partnered with Jonasz to get food into Ukraine.

Last weekend, Pēteris, representing BGI, Dan, representing BBI and Jonasz, representing BACH BCA all went to Lutsk, Ukraine to see how the beds were being used. In this post, we would like to share the stories of some of the people we met.

The first picture shows Anna and Ruslan with their sons, Aron and Danik.  The boys are excited to have their own beds.  In the early days of the war, this Christian family opened their home and gave shelter to as many as would fit in their small apartment as people fled from the Kyiv area on their way to Poland.

The next picture is of Vitali and Natalia with their 5 children. Vitali was building a house for his family when he was in a serious car accident.  Now no longer able to work, he is in the long process of recovery.  His daughter Diana became my friend almost immediately and took me to her toy box.  We played while the adults talked and prayed.

The next two photos show Sasha and his sons Vanya and Dima, who live in the countryside.  The house was very small and we found Vanya sick in his new bed so we prayed for him.  Sasha became a Christian while in prison.  During this time, his wife also left him so now he is raising the boys by himself. He has a passion for ministry and holds a bible club twice a week in their home as well as seeing to it that the neighboring kids also make it to church on Sunday with his family.  Dima happily showed me their horse that is used for pulling a plow or wagon.

The next picture shows three teenagers sitting on the bottom bunk in a room they share with their bedridden grandmother.  Ilya, in the middle, sleeps on the old bed the girls used to share and his sisters sleep in the bunk beds.  They were very grateful as the old bed gave them back problems.  Ilya was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  The family told of the scary way his health deteriorated until they finally discovered what was wrong with him.  Their two older brothers are serving in the Ukrainian army.

The final pictures are of Oleksandr, a pastor of four village churches in the Cherkasy region, and his family.  Both he and his wife Lesja are school teachers.  Along with their children Valerija and Bogdan, they drove eight hours to meet us.  We had a van full of food for them to take home and share with those in need.

We spent two very packed days in Ukraine with many more stories that could be written.  We found people friendly and hospitable, smiling and feeding us until we thought our stomachs would burst.  But the war is taking its toll. There is a lot of stress and heartache.  Let’s continue to support these dear people in our prayers and actions!

Dan Roth

BBI associate Dan Roth is active in the ministry of Eagle’s Wings and Madona Baptist Church. He also oversees the work on the farm at Eagle’s Wings. He is passionate about discipleship and mentoring and Ukrainian relief ministry. Dan loves farming and spending time with his family.