David Ash
Ukraine - how one church in Romania is responding

Read Time: ~ 10mins

We are fast approaching the 7th week of the conflict in Ukraine and the increasing human impact of the crisis is becoming more and more obvious. Not only is it impacting the lives of people in Ukraine but also those in nations surrounding Ukraine, who are receiving refugees.

ChristCentral has been seeking to link refugees wishing to come to the UK with people in our churches, who are able to offer them a place of safety at this time. We are also working closely with our teams in Ukraine supporting pastors who are caring for displaced people. Not only that but we are continuing to support churches and charities working with refugees, including Centrul Creștin Brașov.

I spoke to Andy Robinson from Lifespring in Horsham. Andy is part of the ChristCentral team and has recently returned from an unscheduled trip to Romania and is planning to return later in April.

When did you first make links with Romania, how did that come about?
Almost 20yrs ago a lady from Romania came to visit a friend of hers who lived in Horsham. This led to discussions about the things she was involved with back home in Brașov.

She had recently started up a homework club for a couple of children and she was helping children from her estate get through the school system. Schooling in Romania is similar to that in the USA, if you don’t pass your end of year exams you have to stay in the year you are in. So, for many children, without additional support at home they get stuck in the system.

The church in Horsham began supporting her, sending youth teams over and allowing her to grow this project so that they could employ a few teachers and with additional volunteers, help many more children get through schooling.

We then decided that it would be good to host a summer camp so that these children could have a great summer break. We took out teams of young people who paid enough to fund their travel, living costs and also provide a break for the Romanian children that the project was supporting.

We’ve been doing that for over 13 years.

What started off supporting an individual lady who was faithfully serving her community for Jesus has developed into a wonderful relationship with the church (Centrul Creștin Brașov or CCBv) there and a real blessing both to us in Horsham and the church in Brasov. I’ve had the privileged to preach and teach in the church in various settings.

Where is CCBv?
The church is based in Brașov which is right in the centre of Romania, it’s really the second city in the nation. It’s an ancient city, the old town part of the city is very historic and a bit like York, there is a smaller city inside these ancient walls and a sprawling metropolitan city surrounding it. It reminds me a bit of Prague.

When I first visited, you’d regularly see horse and carts but since Romania joined Europe there has been a lot of investment in infrastructure, and the roads are now really good.

The church have been involved in a building project, tell me more...
CCBv BuildingCCBv has had a building project ongoing for about 13yrs. They’ve had the land for a long time and essentially, they’ve built it in stages when they’ve been able to raise finance or have been blessed with resources. When they bought the land, it was next to some old communist style flats, in a relatively poor part of the city with fields all around them. Over the 13yrs the city has mushroomed almost beyond recognition. The church finds themselves split between these old blocks and a relatively poor area on one side and then a very affluent middle-class housing and beautiful apartments on the other side. Now about ½ a mile away is one of the biggest malls in Transylvania and a really upscale hipster part of town. They are now providentially right in the middle of one of the most affluent and poorest parts of the city, they are incredibly placed to serve Brasov with the gospel.

How did they become involved in serving refugees?
So in late 2021 they opened their building, I say opened, the auditorium and foyer area were finished, the upstairs and other areas were all still building sites. It wasn’t even properly carpeted yet but they were so keen to get into the building and enjoy the fruits of their long years of labour.

Then in the beginning of 2022 Dani & Laura (the senior leadership couple) felt God speaking to them. Laura shared a prophetic word along the lines of “God is going to use this building for things we’ve never even thought or dreamt of”. Then on the 24th February Russia invaded Ukraine…

The church quickly decided that God was calling them to provide a safe place for refugees. There was a rise of faith in their community to turn things around, they stepped out, with literally only £300 in the bank.

What happened next?
CCBv Building 2What’s amazing about this story is that as they felt God prompt them to step out in faith, the church in Horsham and Newfrontiers churches across the UK realised that we would need to take a stand and provide relief for those impacted by the conflict.

We were able to immediately send funds for the building to be adapted, and then Newfrontiers and ChristCentral were able to provide funds for other necessities including a minibus (to help transport refugees safely from the border), and money to upgrade the building, adding further facilities to make things more comfortable like a kitchen and showers for the refugees to use.

How are things developing?
One thing which was immediately obvious on my last trip was that the church has a small staff team which prior to February were working flat out for the church. They are now working flat out to get things sorted and to welcome refugees.

The whole church has been involved from young people to adults. As soon as they’ve finished work or school / college are heading to the building to get it ready to receive refugees. Seeing the people pull together was incredible.

We’ve helped them to employ a centre manager and administrator to help run things on the ground for the refugees and help release the church leaders back into ministry to and for the church as well.

Who is currently staying at the building?
There are around 50 refugees already being housed and there are plans for at least another 50. Part of this is made up of a whole youth ice-hockey team. It took them about 3 weeks to cross Ukraine and get to the border with Romania because they kept having to go into hiding on the route.

Are there any other stories of God’s provision at this time?
CCBv Building 3A large construction company in the city have recently finished a block of apartments which were going to be sold on in the open market, they have decided instead to house 240 refugees.

The church wanted to put in flooring at the building for the rooms which the refugees would be housed in. The flooring company were surprised when they asked for it to be done as soon as possible. The owner came to find out what was going on and offered the flooring for nothing. When the job was done, she came back and delivered 300 sets of bedding (sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases).

A company which the church had contact with came back to ask for some documents to be signed. When the directors arrived, they were surprised by all the activity and asked what was going on. They immediately left and came back with over 2,000 euros worth of pillows and duvets.

There's story after story of the community getting involved.

How are the church helping to integrate the refugees?
The church is hosting meals, inviting refugees to the church meetings and other evangelistic and social events. They are also keen to welcome those who are from churches we have links with in Ukraine, although many of those families currently want to remain in Ukraine and serve those who are suffering.

What do the church need next?
Please pray for a Ukrainian missionary type couple who can come and care for the spiritual and pastoral needs of the refugees. Pray that God would inspire a Ukrainian speaking couple or family to move to Romania to help with all that needs doing in this growing community there.

CCBv Building 4There is also a need for future planning for these people who we are helping. They can’t live in a massive dormitory indefinitely. How can we help them get schooling, jobs, homes and to be able to settle in the locations that they want to be in?

For the church in Brasov for strength grace and stamina to keep going and keep loving, blessing and serving these people.

Another issue which is fast being realised is that once the costs of the building work and adaption are out of the way there is going to be the ongoing cost of up keep and support for the refugees. There needs to be ways of creating sustainability and income to continue this work. How do we get businesses and business people involved in an ongoing basis to raise funds and provide work / income for these people?

How are the refugees doing?
I think for a lot of the refugees their plan had been to get to safety, to get out. They now have no further plan, now they are facing the real dilemma of "I’ve survived now what should I do next?" Many of them won’t know what to do now they are safe. They are going to need to find jobs, housing and schooling for their families.

Many of these people will have seen horrific things, a lot of them are coming from places where there has been active fighting and conflict on the ground. We’re not really seeing refugees from places where the fighting hasn’t reached as yet.

There are so many different areas where they are going to need support, love and care. Many of them will be experiencing PTSD, they will have trauma and some of them will have ongoing trauma and stress due to leaving husbands, older sons, brothers and other family members behind. They don’t know where their family is or what they are doing, even if they are still alive. There is a lot of anxiety and trauma from what has happened and ongoing because of the anxiety of not knowing where their loved ones are / if they are ok.

What can we do?
Please do continue to pray, please continue to give, please think about how you can support the work going on in Romania and in other places. Do you have expertise that you could give to help support the ongoing work? Are you able to open your home to refugees to provide a safe place for people escaping the fighting? If you don’t feel you can do anything practically but you can pray, then please pray, ask for an end to this conflict, for safety for refugees and for God to provide for our brothers and sisters as they seek to serve the people who are all of a sudden on their doorstep and in dire need!

To find out more about giving financially or supporting refugees please visit christcentralchurches.org/ukraine 

This article was written based on a conversation between Andy Robinson from Lifespring in Horsham and David Ash who serves on the ChristCentral comms team. CCBv is a Newfrontiers church in Brașov who are part of the New Ground family. It's truely wonderful to be partnering in the gospel with our wider Newfrontiers family as we serve the people of Ukraine together.