Home General News How the Ministry of Sports saved 300,000 Ukrainians

How the Ministry of Sports saved 300,000 Ukrainians

by ervte

Long before this invasion of Ukraine, small groups of Christians in Ukraine and Eastern Europe had formed connections over their desire to share the gospel through sports.

For 14 years, these groups have collaborated, shared resources, and communicated within a tight-knit network that has grown to 218 locations.

And so, when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, this network sprang into action.How the Ministry of Sports saved 300,000 Ukrainians

While government and humanitarian organizations focused on national priorities, the network of sports ministries concentrated on taking care of “every neighborhood, home, and family in crisis.”

A Ukrainian woman sits among the rubble, still from a video created by Plus One/ Used with permission.

But while it’s basic, it’s no small effort. The network includes 20 denominations, nearly 60 Christian organizations and ministries, and more than 500 churches, giving it “a large footprint on the ground” and a comprehensive understanding of “the real pain, the real need, and the most effective and low-cost solution.” for people in desperate need today.”

About 274,000 Ukrainians have been evacuated from hotspots or assisted by the network, according to a video update recorded in April, just a month after the war effort began. Now, this number will have increased dramatically.

This is how this highly disciplined operation made this possible.

In March, the network established a “Command Help Center” – a team of 16 leaders across Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Moldova, and the US. The team is in contact 24/7, allowing them to make quick decisions.

The command center is reaching out to people in dangerous areas to provide safe ways to evacuate those with their transportation. A fleet of 400 volunteer-driven cars is on standby for those without transportation to evacuate “specific targets”. The network has also purchased four 50-passenger buses, two ambulances, and 15 20-passenger vans to help evacuate people without transport – mainly from war-zone cities such as Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Zaporizhzhia – to safer areas in western Ukraine.

Temporary housing in one of the help centers. Still from a video created by PlusOne/ Used with permission. Used with permission

Another 119 “help centers” have been set up in three states of Ukraine – Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil, and Zakarpattia. These are run by various organizations and individuals connected to the network of sports ministries and do not have churches, gyms, offices, homes, and schools. They collect food and necessities here and sometimes spend a few nights in temporary housing. More than 12,000 people pass through these centers every day.

Some aid centers provide regular support, while others offer one-time assistance, including 2,000 sleeping bags and mats, 180 double mattresses, 20 electric generators, 40 portable gas stoves, and 20 water purification systems.

Volunteers unload relief supplies from the sports ministry in Ukraine. Still from a video created by PlusOne/ Used with permission. Used with permission

Getting goods to the people’s floor requires a well-organized conveyor belt. Items are purchased in Europe, delivered and sorted in Romania, and stored in Ukraine and Moldova. The command help center coordinates where and when the help is needed, and volunteer drivers from various organizations and churches deliver it to its final destination, including aid centers. From there, volunteers go in cars and on foot to apartments, basements, and shelters to supply people with supplies. By early April, nearly 600 tons of aid had been distributed. Eighty-one thousand people received 7kg food packages — enough to feed a family of four for a week — through aid centers, 15 hospitals, and other distribution locations.

The evacuation process of the network of sports ministries is equally meticulous. When women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities arrive at the border, members of local churches are there to meet them and serve them tea and food while people wait in long lines. On the other hand, partner organizations welcome refugees and provide warm blankets, SIM cards, hot meals, and instructions to find temporary shelter before continuing their journey. About 7,500 people are helped every day at the border.

The buses travel for miles to pick up evacuees. Still from video made in collaboration with Bethel Church/ Used with permission. Used with permission

Another 31 aid centers in Romania, Poland, and Moldova provide temporary housing to evacuees for up to 30 days. Ministry teams offer food and supplies and involve children in daily activities, including sports, school, and Bible discovery classes. There are trauma and stress healing groups for women and men and worship services in Ukrainian and Russia.

Ukrainian refugees also receive Biblical resources through partner organizations. MissionEurasia and Bible Mission have printed more than a million Action Bibles for children, the New Testament for adults, and 2,000 Faith Comes By Hearing audio and video Bible devices for refugees are in production.

After their short stay in the aid centers, the refugees are housed for another six months through a network of trusted housing throughout Western Europe, including Italy, Germany, Latvia, Portugal, and the Netherlands.

Millions of dollars in donations from people worldwide – including Australia – have funded the relief efforts of organizations on the ground in Ukraine that are part of the network of sports ministries. The US-based disciple-making organization Our Legacy, which leads the sports movement Ready Set Go, is just one of several channels through which this funding is coordinated. Our Legacy has missionaries in Ukraine and works with a church in Kamyanka in Central Ukraine. And this church is just one of many cogs in the network that have evacuated and transported IDPs across Ukraine, delivering food and supplies to the needy.

While outsiders may marvel at the scale, coordination, and achievements this network of sports ministries has achieved, it’s no surprise tthattthat insideupdate from the network states, “From day one, the leadership team has had the physical, mental and spiritual capacity to serve Ukrainians in an immediate and organized manner.”

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