Ukrainian Relief

A Report from Gemma Mastromarino

The last few weeks have been not just life changing, but world changing to say the least. I’m sure you are all well aware of the war that has broken out between Russia and Ukraine, and many of you are aware of the fact that Romania shares a rather long border with Ukraine.

The border has changed hands so many times between Hungry, Romania, and Ukraine, that just 10 years ago it was not difficult to find many of the elderly generation who could speak a minimum of four languages, adding Russian in the mix, from simple necessity. Many people have family, friends and business partners just on the other side of the border, and often simply walk across to have tea, lunch or pick up a package. When war broke out, Romania stepped up within hours to help our neighbors in need.

Sighet, one of the main border crossings in my area, logistically is less than 30 miles as the crow flies, but it takes about an hour and a half to travel there because of the mountain range. When I first came to Romania I spent most of my time at the camp there, which was also a Bible school at the time. I still have a good relationship with the staff and often take kids to summer camps there.

The camp has opened its doors to the floods of refugees fleeing to our borders on a daily basis. They have about a 150 person capacity available during winter and have been offering a place to sleep, a warm meal, and a brief respite from the stress, noise and cold of the long roads they have traveled to escape the warzone. Most of these people are in transit, meaning that the situation in Sighet is very fluid. People just need a place to stay for the night or at most several days, as they have friends and family in other countries that are waiting for them. The camp staff goes down to the border at least twice a day. They have also officially registered with the local authorities.

As can be imagined, the need for financial, material and physical support is great. I just took a trip yesterday with two girls from my church with my car loaded with supplies (diapers, medicine, toys, clothes, etc.). We went down to the cafeteria that has been transformed into the main storage room. It was full of materials, food, and popular supplies, but it was completely unorganized. The three of us set to organizing everything into groups and then making them easily accessible. We helped make lunch—a warm meal of soup, rice and meat.

There are two families that I would like to share their stories with you, as personal examples will explain the situation much better. The first is a Christian family that escaped with four of their children, but they had to leave two of their older daughters behind. The father got some much needed rest and set out the next day back across the border to get his girls. Before he left, he just kept saying, “Our big Father will take care of me.” I met his wife and younger children yesterday. His wife is so thankful and yet so worried for the safety of our husband. She is clinging dearly to the staff at the camp, praying for the rest of her family to make it back.

The second story I would like to share with you is about a woman traveling with her mother and children. Her husband was not allowed to leave the country. You could see the fear and uncertainty in her eyes. It was clear that she had no idea what she was doing. She was just trying to keep it together for her family. She asked for some tea for her mother and warm food. She spoke relatively good English, and I was able to talk to her several times. Once, she just grabbed me by the hands and said, “This is the most beautiful place I have ever seen; you have no idea. I come from eight kilometers from the Russian border—bombs, soldiers, so much noise and fear. Here is so quiet and clean and nice. I am so glad we made it here.” Then she just began to sob as I hugged her. It was all I could do in that moment. But it was what she needed. She left a few hours later to meet with family in another country.

Each story is different, but the same. They need to leave. They need a place to sleep after long lines in awful weather at the border due to March’s cold rain. They pay the bribes put on them by their own border guards. They need a place to go.

Camp Hope for the Future is doing what it can. But we cannot do it alone. They are in need of financial help. Please pray—prayer absolutely works. If you would like to donate please do not hesitate to contact BIO, my mission board. There has been an account set up specifically for the Ukrainian refugees. Just mark your donation specifically for this need. I will pass any and all funds to the camp directors. You can follow me on Facebook for more updates.

We are blessed to be a blessing. Please continue to pray for me as I work in all the available avenues God has been opening for me. Please pray for Romania. Please pray for Ukraine.

You can send relief to these displaced people through our missionary in Romania, Gemma Mastromarino. Gemma works very closely with the camp. One hundred percent of any funds donated through BIO will go straight to the camp to help them give relief to the refugees. They will not only receive shelter, food, and water; they will receive Hope for the Future!

Please click on the PayPal link to donate or you can send a check to BIO (PO Box 587 Jefferson City, TN, 37760). Please make the check out to BIO and write Ukrainian Refugee Relief on the memo.

When this family arrived at the camp, they were destitute, without any direction. After almost a week of staying at our camp, they have finally found a future, a new beginning, in Germany.
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