Grieve for Ukraine, but not without hope
By Lindsay Peyton
David Goran, Lead Pastor at FUMC Pearland and Redeemer UMC in Manvel, is closely following the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen to all these people we know and love,’” he said. “What are they going to do?”
Ten years have passed since Goran and his wife Shannon served as missionaries in L’viv, a city in western Ukraine, not far from the border with Poland. The couple lived in the town for five years, serving the student ministry and even establishing a church, St. John’s UMC, in the town.
“It was wonderful,” Goran recalled. “We loved it.”
He and Shannon were the second missionaries to serve at the location. The ministry was launched first by Stacy and Fred Vanderwerf.
“They started it, and we took it over,” Goran said. “We worked with a lot of really wonderful young Ukranians.”
Mostly, the Gorans worked with students, a generation who had never lived under Soviet rule. They spoke Ukrainian, not Russian, and had international interests. “They had optimistic outlooks,” the pastor recalled.
Even as the years passed, and the Gorans moved across the ocean and back to Texas, the relationships they built in Ukraine remained strong. The last few days, the pastor has been trying to contact everyone in the country that he knew.
In L’viv, where Goran lived, the fighting has not escalated in the same way as in Kyiv. Still, he explained, there are air raid sirens sounding and residents are living in shelters. Some people from other parts of Ukraine are fleeing to the town. In fact, the UMC the Gorans established, St. John’s, is hosting a number of those individuals.
Goran suggests following Bishop Eduard Khegay, the Resident Bishop of Eurasia Episcopal Area in the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference of the UMC, to stay informed about the latest developments in Ukraine. His Facebook page is facebook.com/bishop.eduard.khegay.
Goran said that prayers for the country are also needed. “I wouldn’t underestimate prayer, our cries to God for peace, the ability of things to change,” he added.
He also suggests reaching out to Ukrainian families both abroad and in our own communities to determine how best to offer assistance. “If there’s an opportunity, find ways you can help,” he said. “And we can have a greater appreciation in general for people who are displaced by war.”
There are a number of groups in Texas that could be ideal starting points, like the Pokrova Ukrainian Church, (pokrova.org), Ukrainian American Society of Texas (uast.org) and the Ukrainian American Cultural Club of Houston, (facebook.com/UACCHouston/).
“Those groups are great ways to just get your foot in the door, show support,” Goran said. “Find out if there’s anything that tangibly can be helped with.”
As the conflict with Russia intensifies, Goran said to consider how food supply and other resources can be affected. Already, he knows people who cannot afford heat or nourishment for their families.
That situation will worsen as time passes, Goran fears. He is looking for ways to personally help individuals in L’viv.
In the midst of tragedy, Goran finds inspiration in the Ukranians. “They’re singing and praising God,” he said. “They have a hope and a faith that gives them enough to be brave.”
He added, “Every single one of our friends, I don’t know one of them that’s said, I’m leaving. They’re saying, ‘We are not going to back down.’ That’s a courageous spirit.”
Goran pointed to Thessalonians 4:13-14, when Paul says,“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.”
“We do grieve, but we do not grieve without hope,” Goran said.
To support Ukrainian pastors and churches, donations can be made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Advance #14053A. For more information or to give online now, click here.