Faith-based organizations and churches in Colorado Springs support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine | News

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Eight employees of a Colorado Springs-based nondenominational evangelical agency, Slavic Christian Ministries, live in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where the Rev. Ronald Putnam, president of the organization, said the Russian incursion was depleting food supplies and of water, and that the attacks targeted both military and civilians.

“I’m in touch several times a day to encourage them and let them know we’re here for them and will provide resources when we can,” he said.

“My interpreter said, ‘We feel everyone’s prayer and support, but it’s still difficult.’ I thought that was quite revealing.

Russia began attacking Ukraine last Thursday and in recent days has launched a missile barrage on Kharkiv after Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian convoy. Panic, exhaustion and fear are at high levels, Putnam said.

His organization has been helping orphaned children, drug addicts in drug rehabilitation centers and the mission of churches in Ukraine for 21 years.

With new developments unfolding daily, Putnam is unsure how his ministry’s work in evangelism, education and medical needs will unfold in the future.

The organization’s board recently voted to channel donations directly to refugees, he said.

But, “what that looks like, we don’t know yet,” Putnam said. “The bigger picture is how do we feed them?”

Slavic Christian ministries also helped Ukrainian refugees in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea and later annexed the peninsula.

For the current situation, Putnam said his organization raised $8,000 in just a few days, with donations of $5 to $1,000 coming from all over the United States.

“I have never seen such an incredible response from Americans in prayer and giving to help people they have never met and will never meet,” he said.

“In the end, God will not allow evil to prevail; right now it’s a test, and people are doing an amazing job of not only trusting in God, but also knowing that he’s going to come to their rescue.

The predominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodoxy, with Evangelical Christianity accounting for only 2-3% of the population, Putnam said.

From 1928 until the outbreak of World War II, churches, synagogues and mosques were closed in the Soviet Union, which included Ukraine, and thousands of religious leaders were killed or imprisoned, to eliminate the concept of God and adopt a state of atheism, according to historical accounts.

After World War II, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was banned from 1946 to 1989, and the Ruthenian Catholic Church was suppressed in 1949, with further persecution and the exile of religious leaders documented.

Some Putnam staff fled Kharkiv for safer places, he said, while others remained in the country’s second-largest city.

“Churches and pastors with whom we already plan to partner for humanitarian donations remain in the Kharkiv region,” he said. “Those who remain are there to help anyone in need, however they can.”

Many humanitarian aid campaigns are underway. The International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Kyiv, Ukraine, is providing water and food, as available, according to its website.

Across Colorado Springs, churches of various denominations held special collections on Sunday to benefit refugees and Ukrainians unable to leave the country.

Holy Theophany Orthodox Church in Colorado Springs has collected donations for Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Poland, said Father Anthony Karbo, who has led local parishioners since 1995, when he was ordained a priest.

“It’s just bad, that’s all it is,” he said of the war. “We are all taken by the words, but what we need is action to help those who are suffering.”

The greatest need, he said, is for people to pray and ask God to “change the hearts of those who make these decisions, be it Russia or Ukraine.”

“It’s a sin, and we all justify it, but in the end, real human beings cry and suffer and bleed,” Karbo said.

God hears the prayers of millions around the world who are crying out for an end to the fighting, Putnam said.

“He will use ordinary people and his church to show those who suffer in Ukraine the loving expression of God’s infinite love,” he said.

JewishColorado, a group that promotes accessibility to Jewish culture in Colorado and abroad, has created an emergency fund to support Jewish organizations coordinating the response.

The organizations estimate that 200,000 Jews are at risk in Ukraine, and “when and where one Jew is threatened, we are all threatened,” JewishColorado says on its website, where donations can be made.

Catholic Relief Services and two pontifical agencies also receive donations for Ukraine, Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need.

Colorado Springs joins in solidarity with the people of Ukraine by lighting the Pioneer Museum at 215 S. Tejon St. in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, beginning Monday night and continuing indefinitely, Mayor John Suthers.

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