March 2022

Because Romania is a bordering country with the Ukraine, our colleagues have been active in aiding the refugees and those who still remain in the Ukraine. This is a fluid, ever changing scenario, but recent communications with Cristi Șoimaru, Lead Pastor of the Bucharest International Church and Iana Matei, director of Reaching Out Romania will help you to understand why we are so strongly supporting them with finances and prayer.

So Much Pain

"I see the pain when the women, the children, the grandparents, arrive in Bucharest and get off the bus or the train. There is so much pain," says Cristi.

"I can’t put the pain in words," says Iana. "I look at their faces; all, absolutely all the refugees, have left behind parents, too old or too stubborn to leave home, husbands or boyfriends who choose to stay and fight. They wonder if they will ever meet again."

"This brings back memories," says Iana as she recalls, for her personal safety, being whisked out of Romania to Hungary during the 1989 Romanian revolution. "I was a refugee. I know what it is to have nothing and to not know the language."

The needs are overwhelming and not everyone can be helped. Pastor Cristi initiated and structured what he has called UBC22 (the Ukraine-Bucharest Churches 2022) that has helped over 1000 refugee families. Aid is given to update passports, do laundry, for translation, to buy heaters, to coordinate ticketing for transport, to provide food, clothing, and accommodation.

A design drawn by a child who found refuge in one of the Bucharest centers, arranged by UBC22

"The calls, the texts for help come in at all hours of the day and night," says Pastor Cristi. "It was 8:30 at night, I was tired, I wanted to ignore the text but then the phone rang. A family with 11 children ages 10 months to 13 years old were in a broken-down van in northern Romania and needed help. I called my cousin, who phoned a friend, who paid for a hotel. The next morning my cousin arranged service to fix the broken pipe of the 31-year-old van and the family were on their way again."

The approach is holistic – to encourage, to connect, to restore dignity. An exhausted family arrived having just crossed the Danube on a boat, cramped, and then put into a van full of people, full of luggage, without any place to move. "After a shower, some clean clothes and some warm food, they were not the same people as when they arrived," said Pastor Cristi.

It is a marathon

"It is a marathon," Cristi says. "Even if the war stops tomorrow, it will be weeks or months to help mobilize and resettle people."

Iana has made three grueling, eight-hour trips just to get to the northeast border crossing. She has forged connections and networks to purchase prescription medicine, food, warm clothing, and supplies that are then taken into the Ukraine to meet the many needs of the children, the families and the men left behind to fight the war.

Iana is preparing the transition shelter on her property to receive six children and three Ukrainian women to care for them. It is the children and teens who arrive at the border unaccompanied by an adult who are at the greatest risk of being trafficked. On the 24th of this month, she will return to the border to do a training as requested by the border police and volunteers. They want to know which questions to ask, what the indicators might be that might ‘ring a bell’ so that they can recognize traffickers or know when a child or teen is at risk to be trafficked.

Life in a bag

A young woman, thankful to transition to better accommodation, came to the door with all her things packed in one bag. "Prior to the war," she told Pastor Cristi, "I had a pretty good standard of living. I had quality suitcases; even the color matched with that of my youngest daughter. But, when the war broke out, I couldn’t even reach my designer suitcase."

Keep Praying

"God keeps encouraging me and putting me in positions, the right place at the right time," says Iana. "I say praise God! There are many miracles in the stories that people are telling. Keep praying that God will protect Ukraine, the mothers and children, hospitals and residential areas and pray that we all have the strength in God to do all that God has called us to do for His glory."