Coming Together to Aid Ukraine

by David Nakhla, Administrator for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

The OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries is committed to using the gifts given to the Ukraine Crisis Fund for ministry to those affected by the war in Ukraine, ideally through Presbyterian and reformed avenues—those with whom we share similar understandings of God’s word and the proper uses of diaconal funds. In seeking to determine where the funds might be used the best, we have grown in our understanding of the number of reformed and Presbyterian churches, missionaries, and organizations ministering to Ukrainian refugees in Eastern Europe.

Planned Assessment Trip of the Ministries to Refugees, May 10-16
Further, I am planning to travel to Eastern Europe for a whirlwind assessment trip of the various ministries, accompanied by Rich Bout, the URCNA Missions Coordinator.  The dates for this trip are May 10-16.  Please pray for the Lord’s blessing on this trip.

Mission to the World (MTW, the PCA’s mission organization), has had a presence in Ukraine since the early 90s, following the fall of the Soviet Union and communism.  As a church-planting mission, MTW birthed the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ukraine (EPCU). There are now 16 EPCU churches and/or church plants sprinkled throughout Ukraine (and one outside of Ukraine in Krakow, Poland), as seen on the map below.

Locations of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ukraine Congregations
Prior to the war, MTW had teams concentrated in three cities: L’viv, Odessa, and Kiev.  At the outbreak of war, MTW determined to relocate most members of the team in L’viv about 200 miles west to Krakow, Poland.  The team in Odessa moved its operation 350 miles west to Brasov, Romania. The team in Kiev has been dispersed to various places.

MTW established the Ukraine Crisis Church Fund with the goal of raising $4 million.  In less than 8 weeks, they raised almost $4.5 million ($75,000 of that is from the OPC’s Ukraine Crisis Fund). 

With the L’viv team now in Krakow, and the Odessa team now in Brasov, MTW has been able to use these funds for the facility, material, and personnel expenses related to housing, feeding, transporting, and clothing refugees in those locations.  For some refugees, they have also had to provide medical care and counseling.

The funds have also been used to enable a ministry to the many sick and elderly who have been left behind in many of the cities in Ukraine.  Through the faithful, tireless, and heroic efforts of some of the saints in the EPCU, truckloads of humanitarian supplies are being purchased and driven to eastern Ukraine to help care for the sick and elderly.  When the vehicles return westward for more supplies, they do that transporting more refugees out of the more dangerous areas of Ukraine.

We look forward to seeing the work of MTW in Krakow, first-hand on May 12.

Please continue to pray for the safety, comfort, and care of many EPCU church members who have been left behind in many dangerous areas of Ukraine, especially the city of Kharkiv near the Russian border in the Northeast.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe (RPCCEE) is another young denomination, now almost 25 years old, located in Hungary, Romania and Western Ukraine.  The OPC enjoys a healthy fraternal relationship with the RPCCEE, delighted in seeing these like-minded brothers prosper in their work to establish a faithful witness in that part of the world.  Being next door to Ukraine and having 3 of their 27 churches in Ukraine, the RPCCEE has been actively receiving, hosting, and helping refugees coming to their churches in Hungary.  Many reformed/presbyterian churches and organizations are seeking to come alongside the RPCCEE, given their strategic location and their faithful efforts to organize in a trustworthy fashion.

According to a recent update, refugees are now being routed to detention camps by the Hungarian government.  As a result, the RPCCEE reports the following: “As things stand now, it is very probable that our focus will change, from offering shelter for Refugees, to helping those who remained in Ukraine and those who settle in Hungary. There are of course many unknown factors which may turn this plan upside down, and the influx of refugees might increase again. Then we will have to make the necessary adjustments.”

We have asked how we can participate and they have invited us to send $9,900, designated for “Post-War Needs”.  Those funds have been sent.

Visiting the RPCCEE labors in Budapest and Miskolc, Hungary, are our first scheduled stops, May 10 & 11, respectively.

World Witness, the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has missionaries in several strategic locations in Europe.  They are in Warsaw, Poland, 150 miles from Ukraine’s western border.  They are also in Lithuania, just north of Poland.  Others are in Germany and Spain.  Each of these outposts are either receiving refugees or ministering to those in their area.  In Warsaw, their focus has been to teach Polish to those Ukrainians desiring to settle in Poland.

Lord-willing, we will observe the work of the ARP in Warsaw on May 13 and their work in Kaunas, Lithuania, on May 14.

Hearts of Hope:An OPC deacon and his wife live in the very corner of Southwestern Ukraine, just next to the border with Romania, by the Black Sea.  Greg and Bonnie Harrison have adopted some children from Ukraine and are providing foster care for others.  Since the start of the war, they have been relocated into Romania, where they live as refugees and also minister to others with lodging and care, as well as providing translation assistance at the border. We will not be able to visit this family on this trip.

Tolle Lege: Another ministry located in Warsaw that has reformed connections is that of Tolle Lege and its director, Dariusz Brycko.  While the focus of their ministry has been in translating reformed works into the Polish language, Tolle Lege has sought to rise to the occasion in playing a role in trucking humanitarian relief from its strategic location in Warsaw to Ukraine.

In a recent newsletter, they shared the shocking news that one of their drivers came under gunfire on his way home from a delivery in the Kharkiv area and was shot and killed, leaving behind a wife and six children.  These brothers are carrying out these deliveries at great personal risk.  They covet continued prayers on their behalf, for courage and safety.

Lord-willing, we will visit Tolle Lege and this operation on May 13.

There are many other ministries sending funds over.  But, at this point, these are those of which we are aware at this time.  Please pray that the Lord would continue to guide and direct.


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Lighting A Lamp for the Stranger

by Rev. Chris Cashen, pastor of Trinity Reformed Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Lanham, Maryland, and member of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.

Taken from the February 2022 issue of New Horizons magazine.

As Jesus opened his first sermon to his disciples, he told them:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14–16)

That was the imagery given by our Savior: a light on a lampstand. Those who follow Christ are to shine before others.

How can the church today set up such a radical light on a stand that it cannot be hidden?

There are likely many possibilities and many answers to that question. Certainly, the first is being faithful in worship. But that might not be what Jesus meant when he likened his followers to a lamp on a stand for all to see “your good works.”

Light of the World

How can your local church be a collective light in your community, so bright that many are drawn to gaze upon the work of Christ and give glory to the Father? What is the most complete, well-rounded, full-orbed ministry of works and Word for your local church? What ministry can any church, regardless of size or gifts or talents, pursue that responds to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ to be light and, at the same time, builds up the people of God and their love for their Savior?

This article is going to ask you to consider a ministry to refugees. Taking it a step further, this article will challenge you to consider whether any other ministry of outreach can accomplish what a ministry to refugees can accomplish.

Lighting the Lamp

What is refugee ministry? Or better yet, who is a refugee? Here care needs to be exercised: casual definitions of refugees in news or social media can often be misleading. A refugee is a person who has been invited by the federal government to come and live in this country. As defined by the laws of this nation, a refugee is a person who has fled his or her native land in fear for his or her life. Each refugee, accurately defined, arrives in the United States with permission to stay—legally. Many times, refugees spend years in camps outside of their home country waiting to be resettled. And because refugees have fled—usually quickly—from some kind of persecution, they often have little to no personal property or wealth when they arrive on US soil.

Think about this from the perspective of a refugee. You have run for your life, crossed the border out of your beloved home, and lived in a tent with your family for months or even years on end. Finally, your status as a refugee is recognized and approved by the United Nations, and you arrive in a foreign land with a very different culture where almost no one speaks your native tongue. Now you need to find an apartment, find beds, find the bus stop, find work, find schools, find grocery stores, find doctors and dentists, and, in your spare time, learn English. That is the plight of the true refugee.

Given that description of great suffering and need, surely the lamp of compassion and mercy should be lit for these new neighbors.

Putting the Lamp on the Stand

Yet this lamp of compassion is often quickly covered with a basket. Many think that ministry to refugees requires special gifts and talents, such as being a linguist or a cross-cultural expert. Certainly, those gifts are helpful, but they are not necessary. Remember, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world”—not just of Virginians, or Californians. No, once this lamp is lit, it needs to be put on a stand for all to see. There is one gift needed for refugee ministry in the church of Christ: a love for the Lord Jesus. That’s it. If you are seeking to follow Jesus, if you love Jesus, then you qualify.

Some churches might work toward sponsoring a refugee family—a higher level of commitment. Or, individual believers might volunteer with a local organization that works with refugees. Perhaps a Bible study group or a prayer group could volunteer together.

The important thing to note, however, is that putting the lamp on the lampstand is relatively simple and straightforward. If you can drive a car, you are qualified to take a refugee to the grocery store, to a medical appointment, or to an English lesson. If you enjoy drinking tea, you have the talent required to sit in a refugee’s apartment and receive their hospitality. (Even if you can’t understand everything they say, you will be encouraging them with your presence and friendship!) If you have free afternoons, refugee children usually need help with homework since mom and dad don’t understand English and are not of much help in answering US geography questions. If you are mechanically inclined, older apartments, where refugees usually begin their lives in the United States, almost always have those four-pronged electric dryer cords that need to be exchanged for three-pronged cords.

Putting the lamp on the stand, then, is doing for others that which you do for your own family.

What a joy when a local congregation engages in this kind of ministry together—demonstrating the powerful love of Christ as a community to those in need! This kind of ministry to an individual or family brings together the body of Christ in unity and oneness in a way that few other ministries do. When we share together the love and joy of Jesus, something happens to those who are serving.

Lighting the House

Once the basket has been removed and cast aside, the lamp is able to be seen by all. Indeed, it will light the house. But which house is lit? I was told many years ago, if one aims at nothing, it will be hit every time. So what are we trying to hit—what is the goal of a ministry to refugees?

When Jesus fed the five thousand, what was he aiming to hit? Was his goal to fill some stomachs? He certainly did feed the hungry, even as he fed their malnourished souls with the words of life. But in the end, it seemed that Jesus’s target that day was a bit more focused: He was preparing his disciples for future ministry. Christ was changing their hearts from ones that snapped “send the crowds away” (Matt. 14:15), to ones that professed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Through the supernatural event of feeding five thousand with bread from heaven, the disciples were being made more Christlike.

Similarly, the goal of any refugee ministry is to light the house—and the house is the church. As we approach a ministry to aliens and strangers, we might hope to fills the pews of the local church—that is, to generate conversions. And certainly, as good deeds are done in and among new neighbors who fled from Afghanistan, Syria, or the Congo, they are to be coupled with the Word and prayer that these souls would be saved. But, interestingly, Scripture does not reveal what number of souls were converted from the feeding of the five thousand. So let the light be that which shines brightly first within the walls of the local church. Watch as the ministry gets going and see how it draws in others within the body, and then take note of how you and others are changed. How infectious is the joy that comes from serving others as Christ served you?

Refugee ministry is not unique in this aspect, but it does powerfully changes the hearts of the local congregants as they love those who have experienced great hardship.

There, then, is the challenge. Refugee ministry is that lampstand upon which the light of the church can be set—a great blessing to the community, and even more so to the church.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Ukraine were the threetop countries of origin of refugees resettled in the US in 2020.

Further Resources

To learn more about what the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries is doing to minister to refugees, or to read in more detail about becoming a light for refugees, find a four-part series of articles by Christopher Cashen on opccdm.org. Listen to the CDM’s podcast episode on refugee ministry at thereformeddeacon.org or by searching for “The Reformed Deacon” wherever you listen to podcasts.


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Refugee Ministry Part 4: A Step by Step Guide to Beginning Refugee Ministry

By Rev. Chris Cashen, pastor, Trinity Reformed OPC, Lanham, MD & Chairman, CDM Refugee Ministry Subcommittee

WARNING: The following is a step-by-step instruction guide. Much like what is placed in those boxes which contain an unassembled bicycle. Many who approach such a task, especially men (maybe even most especially deacons), will purposefully NOT read the “how to” instructions. Some even take pride assembling on their own and boasting later that they did it without looking at the step-by-step guide. You have been warned; one of those guides follows. Proceed at your own risk . . . in reading it, you may learn how to begin a ministry of mercy to refugees!

So, you want to start helping refugees. You have been listening to the news and have seen those from Afghanistan in need of mercy. You have seen the pictures of people, babies, young girls, old men, pregnant women, suffering as they fled their country, their homes. Your heart has broken over the underlying sin and evil, and you want to show the love of Christ. The only problem is that you do not know where to start, how to begin. Perfect. The following is a step-by-step guide or instruction booklet; a “how-to” manual for those who want to begin ministering to refugees. There are seven steps. So, let’s jump in . . .

Step 1: Congratulations! You just accomplished Step 1. Getting past the WARNING and starting to read this article means that you have already developed a “desire” to serve the stranger, the alien, the refugee. But before you move on to Step 2, know that this desire to serve is the backbone of several of the following steps.  Ministering to refugees is a long-term ministry. Unlike helping your neighbor fix his fence on a Saturday afternoon, the help a refugee needs will be varied, and span months, even years. Like anything else, interest in serving these needy foreigners may wane if there is not a true desire in your heart. And refugee ministry, like any other ministry which involves people (i.e., sinners), will include days when you are thinking to yourself, “It’s hard to love this person!” So as Jesus Christ held tightly to His desire to do the will of His Father as He was loving the unlovable, hold on tightly to your desire to serve the stranger.

Step 2: Training. Every worthwhile ministry requires training, right? Not necessarily. Meeting someone at the airport, helping a non-English speaking child with elementary school homework or grocery shopping for an African who has never seen an American supermarket—are basic American skills. Refugee ministry is FULL of these kinds of services, which need no special training, just the love of Christ. Certainly, becoming familiar with the plight of refugees (see example here[1]) or the path they have taken to get to the United States (see examples here[2]) will be valuable in preparing your heart and mind to serve these dear friends. Learning some words of their native tongue will also go a long way in establishing your relationship and bond. And if you were interested in helping with immigration forms (a great need for refugees), some training would be necessary (contact Pastor Chris Cashen).

However, before you run on to Step 3, there is one “training” or preparation activity that should be diligently pursued: prayer. You must pray. Ministering to refugees is a blessing, but like any other work of mercy, it must be bathed in prayer. Prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ would be exalted. Prayer that as you spend time with new friends from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, or Myanmar, that you would be the light of Jesus to them. Pray for God’s perfect provisions to be poured out according to His will, and that He would receive all the glory. Yes, prayer is the best training.

Step 3:  This might be the hardest step. Step 3 is to find a refugee to serve. In a sense, this is where the ministry begins. Like writing an English literature paper where the most difficult sentence to write is the first, Step 3, or finding a refugee to serve, may be the hardest part. To minister mercy to a refugee, you must first know a refugee. To know a refugee, you must first meet a refugee. The problem is that refugees are not issued name tags when they enter the US. None of them have “REFUGEE” stamped on their foreheads. While this may be the most difficult step of the seven, the good news is that there are people out there ready to help you meet refugees. They are called “resettlement agencies.” National “resettlement agencies,” with various offices throughout the country, work directly with government to begin the resettlement process. There are nine resettlement agencies in the United States (you can find a list here[3]). These agencies do a lot of the heavy lifting of resettlement: finding apartments, employment, schools, English classes, medical and dental professionals, and much more. In addition to resettlement agencies, in certain localities there are other organizations which provide various aid to refugees.

Resettlement agencies and these other local organizations need help . . . a lot of it. They need volunteers to jump in and assist them in serving refugees. So much so that volunteerism is your door to meeting refugees. Volunteering with a resettlement agency or local organization is a simple and guaranteed way of meeting refugees. One way to find one of those nine resettlement agencies, or other refugee aid organization, in your area, is the internet. Try entering “resettle refugee” or “help refugees” along with your city and state (e.g., “resettle refugees Denver CO”), in your internet browser search box. You might also email or call your local county or city government offices and ask for the department which oversees refugee resettlement. If one exists, they will likely have a list of those organizations serving refugees in your community.

If you live in a larger metropolitan area where there are many refugees living in close quarters, there will likely be organizations, churches or NGOs (non-governmental organizations), offering English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Those that are providing classes are usually looking for people to volunteer to help teach, or just enter into conversations with those who do not speak English as their native tongue. This is a convenient way to meet refugees and a great way to establish relationships which grow over time.

Step 4: Now that you have met a refugee, what do you do? Practical things like helping to set up an apartment, teaching the use of an oven or thermostat, shopping, providing clothing, and offering transportation for appointments to doctors, dentists or the social security office – all essential. But be sure to be a friend. You don’t need to always do. Take the time to listen and interact. Serving in refugee ministry takes time, but perhaps not in the way you might think. To serve refugees, you need to fully understand the varied understanding of time. American time is much different than African time, or Syrian time, or “pick any other country than the United States” time. It’s not even spelled the same way. In America, time pursues us on our wrists and on our smartphones. We are constantly aware of time. It tells us when to go, when to arrive and when to leave. But you need to realize that almost none of the refugees you serve will understand the American version of time—and they really don’t want to. To those from the Middle East, from Africa, from even Central America, time is different. Time does not direct their day. Relationships do. 

Think of the disciples. Their understanding of time was very different from Jesus’. The disciples didn’t think that there was enough time to feed those 5,000 people. It was about to get dark. So as the disciples focused upon the time, they told Jesus to send them away: “Send the crowd away . . . for here we are in a desolate place!” (Luke 9:12). But Jesus had them sit down and He fed them. All of them. Jesus wasn’t focused on time, but on serving and loving the people. As you serve refugees, Step 4 is to enjoy establishing that relationship which will come to govern your interaction.

Step 5: Now that you are in the middle of serving, what’s next? Step 5 is food for the soul! Give them nourishment! As stated above, refugee ministry is relational. It is nothing if it is not relational. Through your interactions over time, through the mercy being poured out, you will establish a relationship. Building trust is essential if those to whom you are ministering are to receive the Word of God and, hopefully, believe the words that you speak to them. As these relationships grow, along with these deeds of mercy that you are pouring out, give them the very word of God—true nourishment. Of course, you don’t need to wait to Step 5 to give your new refugee friend the reason for the hope that lies within you. And, if you are not careful, the physical part of this mercy ministry can easily become the only aspect of your ministry. The physical mercy ministry is important, but remember, Jesus called His disciples to feed the 5,000. The physical ministry should never become the main target. Jesus used the stomach to get to the heart, and that is your aim[4]as you minister to refugees.

Step 6:  Receive blessings. What? Yes . . . this next-to-last step is to receive blessings—many blessings. You may have thought that refugee ministry was only about the refugees. But this ministry is also about you. This ministry is all about how God changes you. It is about how God works in your heart. It is about how God reveals to you things which were deep in your heart, which were unknown and undetected until you engaged in ministry to refugees. Yes, this Step 6 is big. You recognize that you are the one who has been blessed in so many ways as the Spirit has poured out grace upon you, given you the desire to follow after Jesus Christ, and allowed you to see how Jesus has served you, and ministered to you—a stranger to Him.

Step 7 (praise God). The final step, or Step 7 is to praise God! 

Now that you have read this short step-by-step guide to beginning your own refugee ministry, please know that the full step-by-step guide is actually contained in two volumes. The first is called the Old Testament and the second is called the New. In this two-volume set, the Lord Jesus Christ not only gives us the original step-by-step guide to loving your neighbor, but also gives us many excellent examples of how He ministered to strangers and aliens and how He loved the unlovables (such as you and me!). Use the above seven step guide only after you’ve gone through the two-volume set, the original guide to loving your neighbor. Praise be to God.


[1] Incitement.com [Incitement]. 2021, June 16. World Refugee Day: The Worst 10 Refugee Crises in 2021; YouTube. {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miK22Hsan5o}

[2] World Relief; 2021, October 27; {https://worldrelief.org/category/stories/}

[3] The UN Refugee Agency; United States Resettlement Partners, {https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/us-resettlement-partners.html}

[4] Capill, Murray; The Heart is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text; P & R Publishing; 2014, April 28.


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