Nazarene missionaries work to help Ukraine

Nazarene missionaries work to help Ukraine
Teri Stein

Crystal and Chad Gibbons, missionaries who were stationed in Ukraine, spoke recently at the Goshen Community Church of the Nazarene.


Nazarene Compassion Ministry missionaries spoke recently at the Goshen Community Church of the Nazarene about the efforts to help that have been made outside and inside the country of Ukraine since it was invaded by Russia. The event was part of a mission zone rally held for the East Ohio Southern Zone of the Church of the Nazarene.

Chad and Crystal Gibbons, formerly of Michigan, were stationed in Kyiv, Ukraine when the Russian military began to gather their forces along the border in early 2022.

“We’re watching this in Ukraine along with the rest of the world, and we’re asking everybody in Ukraine, ‘Hey, what’s going on at the border here? This seems a little concerning,’” Chad Gibbons said. “And everyone we talked to in Ukraine said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that. That’s just something that Putin does every once in a while, and it’ll all blow over. Don’t worry about it.’”

One day before the war started, the American Embassy left Ukraine.

“We’re on their mailing list. They emailed us along with other American citizens there and said you better get out of Ukraine right now because something big is happening in the next couple of days,” Gibbons said.

The couple was torn, and they are still torn about leaving. They thought they’d be gone a couple of weeks or a month at the most, so they left and were flown to Germany.

“Then we watched with the rest of the world as the tanks crossed the borders, and the invasion happened, and we were shocked. We could not believe what we were seeing,” Gibbons said. “We just kept getting pictures all throughout those early days of the war from our neighbors and our friends and our church members. Here’s our neighborhood that we were living in, and there’s tanks in the streets, and our neighborhood has been bombed. Our apartment has been shot up. It’s just a very surreal thing to see.”

They were happy to be part of the Nazarene Churches’ efforts as they sprang into action.

The Gibbons were in the thick of helping with the refugee crisis as 8 million people left Ukraine in a very short amount of time.

“Within 24 hours of the conflict, (the NCM) had coordinated all of our countries around Ukraine and set up a plan of action. The first thing that happened is my cellphone became the hotline, basically, for any Ukrainian from our churches who was trying to get out of the country,” Crystal Gibbons said.

Anyone needing a safe place to go was encouraged to contact Crystal Gibbons, and she tried to coordinate a safe place for them to go once they left Ukraine.

“I started getting these texts and emails that started with just our Nazarene people, and then they passed my number along. So before the end of the night, I was getting thousands of requests for help,” Crystal Gibbons said. “And as they’re in that moment of desperation, they’d say we have five people in this car, and we’re headed to Romania. Can you help us?”

Crystal Gibbons coordinated the requests with other NCM and Nazarene church members and officials able to help the refugees find a safe place to go. They would meet the families at the border by holding a sign with their last name on it.

“Someone who is in the hardest moment of their life, to see that they have family on the other side of that border — because that’s what we are, a church family — to see how our church family moved and helped one another was just incredible,” Crystal Gibbons said.

They were grateful for NCM funding, which was used to purchase a building in Poland directly across from a main train station bringing in refugees.

“We made it a safe space for women and children to come get free Wi-Fi, a hot drink. There was a space for children,” Crystal Gibbons said. “They’ve been on this difficult journey. Sometimes it would take two weeks to make what would normally be an eight-hour trip, and so they’re exhausted. They don’t know where to go. We gave them a safe space to go and meet with our people and just connect and find a place to be safe for the night.”

The help for those still inside Ukraine continues. The NCM is sending tons of food and hygiene products into the country.

“We found a distributor in Poland, and we started trucking in 40 tons of food every month to be distributed through our churches,” Crystal Gibbons said. “The NCM really works through our churches that are already in those places. And that allows for some roots to be in those communities. They know their people. They know their neighborhoods. They know what is needed and how they can help long-term.”

Crystal Gibbons touched on the importance of churches in the U.S. that send crisis care kits to help with their efforts. She spoke of children from Nazarene churches in Ukraine who shared the boxes with their classmates at school who weren’t getting needed items.

“I just think it’s just such a beautiful picture to see how even kids recognize that there’s always someone who has less than you. So that really excites me that not only is it going to our people, but everyone else as well,” Crystal Gibbons said.

Despite the dire situation in Ukraine, the Nazarene churches continue to grow.

“When there’s tanks in the streets and air raid sirens and bombs going off, the most important thing for our church members was to come together and meet and worship,” Chad Gibbons said.

A complete video of the talk from Feb. 7 is available on Facebook at Goshen Community Church of the Nazarene.

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