While it isn’t quite Christmas, Pastors Alla and Pasha Solntsev have already received dozens of presents. They include salvations, as people declare Jesus as Lord, at City of Light Foursquare Church’s new mission near Dnipro, Ukraine, a city of nearly 1 million 300 miles southeast of the capital of Kyiv.
Then there are the refugees volunteering for City of Light’s ministries, employees of a new bakery that turns out 500 loaves of bread and buns weekly, and children finding a sense of normalcy through Bible classes and activities.
“The main thing is people are getting saved, and the church is going the right way,” says Alla, who has co-pastored City of Light since 2013. “A lot of these projects are ones God showed me a long time ago. They’ve been burning in my heart. Now they have come true because of help from Foursquare Disaster Relief.”
The story unfolding in a land still under siege by Russian troops is one of hope amid disaster. When the war began last February, Alla says (through an interpreter) that they had two choices: evacuate or stay to help church members and other Ukrainians. They stayed.
Such projects as four bakeries, weekly food distribution to 13,000 people and building 100 homes for Ukrainians who had lost everything are examples of how the $1.8 million given this year for aid to the nation has been used.
“I would love to offer a huge thank you to Foursquare and FDR for giving practical help and all the prayers. It’s a tough time. Without this help we would not be able to help people as much as we have.” —Alla Solntsev, co-pastor of City of Light Foursquare Church near Dnipro, Ukraine
FDR Director Chad Isenhart says only $1 million has been spent thus far, since it is tough to know how long the war will last and thus how far to stretch resources.
But he says the Foursquare agency’s ability to act before knowing how much would be given demonstrates the value of its Ready Fund, the focus of this year’s Christmas offering.
In 2022, the Ready Fund has helped with many other projects, among them Hurricane Ian relief in Florida, people threatened by starvation in Myanmar and victims of economic upheaval in Sri Lanka.
“The focus is a celebration of what we’ve done together,” Chad says. “We’re on par to respond to 50 disasters this year. But we can’t respond if we don’t have the resources. If we had waited for money to come in for Ukraine, we would have only been able to do a fraction of what we’ve done.”
The project also draws attention to Foursquare’s global reach. Around 2010, Foursquare Missions International’s Jeff Roper felt God placing a burden on his heart for the Eastern European nation. Inspired, he traveled regularly to Kyiv for prayer walks and making key contacts.
Later, Jeff received a speaking invitation from Ukraine that an American pastor was unable to fulfill. Three weeks later, he had lunch in Kyiv with Ukrainian Pastor Dmytro Mason. Jeff later taught a pastors’ seminar and then conducted more intensive training.
“Developing a national church planting movement is a highly relational and multi-year process,” explains Jeff, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) global associate director to Europe and MENACA (Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia). “FMI’s commitment to our Four-Stage Development Model empowered me to work with Ukrainians leaders over a period of years. The fruit of that relationship is now seen in the way the Foursquare churches of Ukraine are serving their nation during this time of war.”
Chad says it’s been incredible to see the coordination and cooperation behind the response, which has touched seven other European nations. Massive amounts of relief have helped refugees from Ukraine get housing in Europe and elsewhere.
“The donor in the U.S. is giving and praying while the missionary in Europe is serving the community and knows a pastor who needs to leave Ukraine,” Chad affirms. “We get a vehicle to get them across the border, get them housing and connect them to a job. This is happening all across Europe.”
One beneficiary of such aid is FDR’s representative for Ukraine, Sasha Voitiuk. The Feb. 24 bombing of Kyiv forced him, his wife, and their 3-year-old son to flee to her native village in southwest Ukraine. When his family left for Moldova, Sasha had to stay behind until a CT scan confirmed a reoccurrence of his lung disease. After Sasha obtained permission to leave the country, various Foursquare missionaries helped the family secure temporary housing and then arrange visas to Canada.
The Voitiuks are now living in Kimberley, British Columbia. They attend Summit Foursquare Church, which helped them get settled, found Sasha a job and secured the family a below-market rental home.
“I got a visa in six days,” Sasha says. “FDR paid for our tickets to come to Canada. That is so huge. What a ‘God’s way’ for us.”
Back in Ukraine, Pastor Alla is also grateful.
“I would love to offer a huge thank you to Foursquare and FDR for giving practical help and all the prayers,” she says. “It’s a tough time. Without this help we would not be able to help people as much as we have.”