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Emergency Aid Project at St. John’s Lutheran in Saratov, Russia

Tue, Sep 2, 2014

News, Russia, Ukraine

This report is shared with us by our partner church body, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR) and was written by one of the pastors, Rev. Alexander Furs. During several weeks, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (ELCIR) in Saratov, Russia, has been active in providing aid to refugees from Ukraine.

Some of the goods collected by the congregation.

Some of the goods collected by the congregation.

Currently, the congregation has charge of five families. Church members and the diaconal group of the congregation and of the ELCIR Volga District collect first necessities and pass them to the refugees. The aid includes food, medicines, clothes, bedclothes, and even articles of furniture.

Families who received aid from St. John's Lutheran Church in Saratov, Russia.

Families who received aid from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Saratov, Russia.

The Volga District of The Church of Ingria and St. John’s Lutheran Congregation would like to thank a regional governmental ministry in Saratov, namely, the Public Relations and National Policy Committee for their coordinating efforts in the aid process. The committee has indicated that several more refugee families that have arrived in Saratov recently will be referred to St. John’s Lutheran Church. Below is a description of the congregational emergency aid project written by Rev. Alexander Furs, pastor at St. John’s Lutheran. “In our parish we have the constantly working diaconal assistance project which is called ‘Let Us Help Each Other.’ This project includes collection of clothes, shoes, household items and so on. All the things are stored in one place, and every parishioner can take for themselves what they need. Basically it is assistance for the needy, but not only from among our parishioners. For example, we have a family, parents and two small children, whom we have been supporting during several years: clothes, household appliances (not new, of course, from those things that our parishioners bring). When this family had their second child, our parishioners brought a crib, a stroller, toys, lots of children’s clothing. This family is needy because only the father works and his income is small. Once a year (unfortunately only once due to lack of finance), we provide people with aid in the form of food packages. The sets are given to big families, the disabled, the poor, and the elderly. Child subsidies and pensions of the elderly are very small, so everyone is happy to get those food packages. Of course, the deaconess group of our congregation aids those who are ill, who are in the hospital. Fortunately in our parish there are no people who have a serious illness, but if someone needs help, all our parishioners immediately come to the rescue. “In this difficult situation with refugees from Ukraine, all these days our congregation and all our members have been helping the refugees with everything we can do. At this point, we are helping four families. Those are: 1) husband, wife and two children (1.5 and 8 years) and mother of his wife, 2) a young woman with her mother, 3) husband, wife and two children (2 and 9 years old), 4) young mother (33 years old), very sick child (6 years old), and her grandmother. In our congregation, all of them have received various assistance: food, clothes, shoes, toiletries, linens, dishes, some appliances, 2 cots, prams, even some pieces of furniture, dresses and mattresses. All those things were brought by all of our parishioners. Now those who did not take part in the care just came back from their summer vacations and all of them asked us how they could help, what else they could bring, what the refugee families still need, etc.

Women from the Ukraine in the sanctuary at St. John's with the gifts from the congregation.

Women from Ukraine in the sanctuary at St. John’s with the gifts from the congregation.

“Now we were approached by another family with a 4-month-old baby. And we are trying to find for this child a crib, a stroller, and many other things such as clothes, diapers, etc. “They all fled without any belongings, only with their ID’s, and they need absolutely everything. We will continue to help these people with everything we can, thanks to our parishioners who are bringing from their houses everything for the refugee families. Unfortunately, due to lack of finance in our congregation, we cannot provide the right amount of food, medicines (medicines are especially expensive), and diapers. But we do what we can. “I am sending some photos of the refugees, however I don’t have very many pictures because the refugees reluctantly allow to be photographed, they are very embarrassed, and we do not believe it is entirely ethical to insist on taking more photos of them. If we get more photos, we will surely send them.

Refugees enjoy some tea while sorting through their needs.

Refugees enjoy some tea while sorting through their needs.

“We ask for your prayers for these people, for peace in Ukraine and that the Lord gives us an opportunity to continue to aid them. We do not know how many more refugee families from Ukraine will come and will ask us for help, but we will help everyone to the best of our ability.”

  • Pray for Rev. Alexander Furs and Rev. Olav Panchu, the pastors at St. John’s Saratov, that they may be strengthened in their work.
  • Give thanks to God for the congregation members who so willingly give what they can.
  • Pray for the refugees, that their needs of body and soul may be met!

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