'Into Ukraine' documentary highlights God's faithfulness, resilience of Church amid terrors of war
It’s been nearly a year since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine wreaked havoc on the nation and displaced millions of people. Amid the continued devastation seen across Ukraine, one group of Christians, driven by a desire to help the lost and found, is on the frontlines providing aid to those in need.
A Jesus Mission, a Christian missionary organization that partners with local churches to evangelize, disciple and minister to the lost, is standing in the gap in Ukraine to distribute aid to remote villages impacted by war.
In an interview with The Christian Post, A Jesus Mission’s Andy Zeissman said that in the first few weeks of the war, the mission purchased multiple vans and began taking supplies into active war zones in Ukraine — a risky, yet essential mission.
“We’ve always said we wanted to be on the edge of the crisis, and because of our relationships with people inside Ukraine, we had no choice but to get off the bench and just become a part of the solution,” he said. “The expression of risk, and the willingness to take a risk, opens the door for the Gospel to go forward more than anything else.”
With a mere seven vans, missionaries with A Jesus Mission have delivered over 1 million pounds of food within 5 miles of Russian occupation — “and the goal is to just keep taking food as close to the frontlines as we can,” Zeissman said, adding: “When we go to villages they have no food, no water and electricity half the time.”
A crucial part of the ministry’s work is partnering with local churches to provide aid and disciple new believers. Zeissman stressed that without the local church, the mission group would be “irrelevant.”
“We try to not let A Jesus Mission be known really at all,” he said. “We get into Ukraine, we have our vans that say, ‘Jesus Mission Aid Vehicle,’ but besides that, we’re just working with the local church, because that’s how people are going to be most benefitted. Just by bringing food to the church, we can really equip them to do the long game, which is years of work."
"They speak the language, they know the culture," he continued. "In a sense, we bring people physical food, but if we work through the local church, people get to eat twice, because that church will spiritually feed people. So, our heart is to facilitate the Ukrainian church everywhere we go.”
Pierce Westfall, executive director of A Jesus Mission, told CP he’s heard stories of thousands of people that have come to know Jesus because of the food delivered to their regions and distributed by local churches.
“Through the local church, we're able to see disciples literally being made every single day. And discipleship will continue as those relationships are established,” he said.
To encourage the Western church to step up and help those in need both in their own backyards and around the world, A Jesus Mission recently released a documentary, “Into Ukraine: A Story of Being The Church in a Warzone,” which captures their mission of delivering food to the frontlines of the war.
The documentary features footage from trips into villages being shelled, revealing the devastation experienced by those impacted by war. It also features the insights of delivery drivers and missionaries who have worked in Ukraine for years.
“Going to Ukraine and seeing families and hearing about their lives firsthand — it changes you,” Zeissman told CP.
“I sat down with a 19-year-old young woman who mentioned that a month earlier, she had tried to evacuate. We said, ‘Well, what do you need? We’ll take you out, we’ll get a van down there.’ And she said that if she stayed, at least there was hope. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said, basically, leaving is giving up. She broke down crying and revealed that she had just gotten married, and her husband couldn’t leave the country. He was on the frontlines of the war.”
“Her hope wasn't getting out of the country; her hope was that she’d get a knock on that door from her husband, to know that he's coming home,” he continued. “When you see people like that, how do you not do something? The stories are endless.”
But the documentary also highlights God’s faithfulness in even the bleakest of circumstances. The faith and resilience of the Christian Church is emphasized, as the Body of Christ is shown stepping up to help those in need around them.
“We saw grown men and pastors bawling because the miracle that they’d prayed for, that food and relief would come, came to be,” Westfall said. “God’s doing things. To see people in tears, literally on their knees, begging God for their daily bread and then you show up and you can be a part of that solution — it’s humbling. There are a thousand stories like that. Any time you see the devastation, you also see the glory of God moving in the midst and redeeming as He always does.”
Reflecting on some of the misconceptions Westerners have about refugees and how to care for them, Westfall said that oftentimes, refugees can be forgotten about years, even months after they’re displaced.
“I think one of the presumptions is that the government will just swoop them up and the problem will be solved because we stopped hearing about it,” he said. “But in reality, those people whose lives have been turned upside down, they don't know what's next. … most of them aren’t hoping to resettle their lives here in America; they are earnestly and eagerly awaiting for when they can go home. But what are they going to go home to? Their homes are rubble.”
“These are people longing to return to their homes and to their families,” he added. “I think the Church needs to be compassionate toward that desire. And instead of just going, ‘Well, that sucks, get over it, here's your new life, here's a new home,’ the Church would be seeking to come alongside refugees and help restore them, as much as possible.”
Through their documentary, A Jesus Mission hopes to stir up this compassion among believers and allow it to spur them into action, whether it's through prayer, donating or reaching out to those hurting around them.
“That's the dream that we just become more compassionate people,” Westfall said. “Any one of us can take a five-minute drive from where we're standing right now and find a crisis in our area.”
“Our hope is that people would see the Ukrainian Church as a people being stirred by compassion, and more importantly, see how they responding to that,” he added. “Our hope is that people would be served by compassion for the people in their cities and neighborhoods, and they’d see their longsuffering and respond to that.”
Watch “Into Ukraine” here. Learn more about A Jesus Mission here.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org