Since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has acted on behalf of The United Methodist Church to provide aid and assistance. Grants for immediate relief have been given to trusted partners – United Methodist churches in surrounding countries, ecumenical partners and non-governmental organizations – to provide direct aid inside Ukraine as well as help for those who have fled to surrounding countries.
How is the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) responding?
UMCOR’s work in Ukraine is funded with gifts to Advance #982450, International Disaster Response and Recovery. Grants for immediate relief have been given to United Methodist partners to provide direct aid inside Ukraine as well as to support those who have fled the violence. UMCOR is working through Methodist churches in neighboring nations—Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In addition, grants are being awarded to trusted partners like ACT Alliance, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and Human Rights League. Grants provide transportation assistance, humanitarian supplies such as food, water, clothing, shelter and medication, as well as legal services and safe spaces for families, women, children and those with disabilities. In addition, UMCOR has funded the transport of more than $1 million in medical supplies to hospitals in Kyiv, with more supplies scheduled in the coming months. UMCOR is in continuous dialogue with UMC entities and other partners throughout Europe to identify additional ways to assist. The situation in Eastern and Central Europe is constantly evolving and with Ukraine’s economic losses already estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, recovery efforts will take years. Global Ministries and UMCOR will continue to respond in the months and years ahead.
How can I support those still in Ukraine and those fleeing the violence?
At this time, all gifts to UMCOR’s International Disaster Response and Recovery Advance will be used to assist those who remain in Ukraine and those who have fled the violence to neighboring nations. Gifts can be made in the following ways:
UMCOR does not ship relief kits or other supplies internationally. While the need is great and it is tempting to assist by shipping clothes, shoes and diapers, the cost is high. Instead, we encourage you to help us assist our partners in securing supplies in Europe.
This is less costly than shipping supplies, helps local economies and ensures that materials received are the materials needed at any given time. Your gift will allow us to procure materials and supplies locally.
Thank you for your willingness to serve. UMCOR does not recruit international volunteers to assist in emergencies globally. Instead, we work with partners who employ people or recruit volunteers locally. While UMC partners on the ground have indicated that they look forward to the time when they can receive volunteers, they now need to devote themselves to assisting refugees and their immediate needs and do not have the capacity to provide for the logistic and linguistic needs of volunteers. In time, there may be opportunities for volunteer teams to assist with rebuilding or help in other ways. Months from now, UMC leadership in these areas may send out a call for volunteers.
Although President Biden has announced that 100,000 refugees from Ukraine will be welcomed into the U.S., he has not announced the plan for their resettlement. Once the State Department has confirmed details related to visas and other documentation, UMCOR will work with long-time partner Church World Service (CWS) to assist in the resettlement efforts. In the interim, CWS would welcome your help resettling refugees evacuated from Afghanistan some months ago.
Our church wants to have a direct relationship with a UMC congregation in Ukraine or Eastern Europe. Can you provide us with contact information?
As a general best practice, Global Ministries does not refer people to our partners on the ground during a disaster because they are busy responding to the crisis at hand. We do facilitate mission partnerships with churches around the world through the In Mission Together (IMT) program. To learn more about the IMT networks in Eurasia, visit umcmission.org and search for In Mission Together. Staff of Global Ministries and UMCOR are open to speaking with congregations, mission committees and other groups about our work, virtually or in-person.
Is The United Methodist Church active in Ukraine? In Russia? In surrounding regions?
Ukraine covers over 233,000 square miles, extending from the borders of Poland and Romania to the west, bordering Russia on the east and south and touching on Russia and Belarus on the north. The majority of the Ukrainian population—more than 40 million people—is affiliated with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, through both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Protestants are a small minority of the population.
The UMC expanded in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. New United Methodist congregations and student ministries emerged, assisted by missionaries, mission volunteers and teams.
Although Ukraine declared its independence from Russia in 1991, relations have not been easy. In 2014, for example, Russia seized and annexed Crimea, resulting in the loss of five Ukrainian UMC congregations which were transferred to the South Russia Annual Conference.
Now there are 10 United Methodist Churches in Ukraine, strategically located in larger cities, with a combined membership of approximately 500 people. The Ukrainian-Moldova Provisional Annual Conference is now part of the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area, led by Bishop Christian Alsted.
There are three other episcopal areas in Europe: Central and Southern Europe Area (Bishop Patrick Streiff); German Area (Bishop Harald Ruckert); and Eurasia Area (Bishop Eduard Khegay.) All of these episcopal areas are welcoming refugees from Ukraine.
The General Board of Global Ministries is the global mission, relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church. The work of Global Ministries includes 17 programs organized around four missional priorities: Missionaries, Evangelism and Church Revitalization, Global Health and Humanitarian Relief and Recovery, which includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR is dedicated to alleviating human suffering and advancing hope and healing through disaster response and support of global migration.