General Update from Paul Thaxter.
Many of you will have been following some of the distressing news of the war waged by Russia in Ukraine and praying for a just peace in the Ukraine. There have been over 8-9 million people displaced in the country. Many Ukrainians have moved to the west in the country where conditions are moderately better. As a bitter winter approaches the Russians have targeted the energy infrastructure in the nation in order to lower the morale of the Ukrainian people. In Kyiv it is getting extremely difficult moving around the city due to very limited transport. People are still flowing over the borders as matters get worse and countries like Moldova, Romania, Georgia and Poland are seeking to respond appropriately. Christians continue to make a real difference in this war-torn country. Please pray for the safety of CMS partners in the country. Furthermore, Christian military chaplains in the country are really stretched in their work and some travel far to be of help - a friend of mine said as he had travelled east. “It was very worthwhile but heart-breaking to see the pain and destruction first hand.”
There has been a record number of Ukrainians received into UK homes with over 90,000 families. Christians are playing their part. Recently at a Sanctuary UK conference a key Ukrainian co-ordinator said her fellow Ukrainians were living in the UK are struggling in 3 areas – longer-term housing, English speaking and understanding how to integrate into the wider culture quickly and how to find jobs. It can be difficult for many who do not have access to their documents, proof of education, evidence of bank deposits etc. They also have difficulties learning how to write CVs in job applications and how to interview well as there are cultural differences. e.g. Many Ukrainians are not used to stating or discussing their hobbies or personal interests in a job application process. Many are desperately trying to save up for a cash advance deposit for housing but it is difficult to do so.
The government is now fast-tracking Ukrainian teachers so they can work in the UK so that is good news.
Food and Basic Banks have been helpful around the country in an emergency and there is now a Baby Basics Bank - but the nearest one is Portsmouth which covers that city and Havant. There is, however a local, smaller Baby Bank who can take donations of baby equipment and clothes.
Other resources that may be helpful:
Mental health resources (also available in Russian and Ukrainian):
The Church Urban Fund has various good links on their website to help refugees
Be encouraged by how Christians are seeking to be part of the ongoing support for Ukrainians at this time.
St James by the Park Hosts
We are pleased that 5 families in the church now have Ukrainian guests staying with them for 6 months. Some of these families are linking up with other families in the community. This is both commendable and a big commitment so please do pray for our hosts and their guests. The hosts are supporting each other, sharing tips and advice and learning from each other and their Ukrainian guests. It is an enriching but challenging experience for all of them.
Here is a excerpt from one of our hosts from our church….(we seek to be discreet and maintain confidentiality and so avoiding personal names)
A story of a mother and her 2 young children who is now living here
“Despite lots of chasing, it took a painful & frustrating 4 months to get the visas to the UK. During that time her block of flats was shelled. Her flat was flooded and her upstairs neighbour was killed. After trying to dry things out, she took a 97 hour bus trip to Czech with her children for 6 months with no knowledge of the language and little company. She tried to save some of their benefits to support their father back home. Then they got visas for the UK. After a sleepless 37 hours bus & train journey, a mother and her young children with a pile of cases arrived at St Pancras. Remarkably they were still in good cheer with great big smiles on their faces.
They were exhausted when they arrived but spent their first day preparing a sumptuous thankyou meal for us and the Ukrainian woman and her family who had served as translator throughout the process of the previous 4 plus months (taking their combined funds down to less than £2.)
Our host shares that responsibility with her parents who have the accommodation. We then launched into the task of setting up life here. There have been so many doors needing to be pushed and others that seemed to be worth a try. Incredibly, and with a lot of help, advice and prayers from the churches in the wider Southampton area doors have opened – praise God!
Despite having little English, two weeks after arriving her and another Ukrainian woman both found jobs at pretty much the only workplace within walking distance. The company has a good reputation as an employer. Child care options have been found and church members have gifted laptops, football boots and strip, clothes, a bike, helmets, lights & locks.
We have become like an extended family and we share similar interests such as walking outside and our children have bonded really well. “
St James by the Church needs host supporters…
One of our hopes was that when guests came to live with host families in the church there would be a number who would offer to be host supporters. Several people said they could not host people but be willing to help in some way. No specific needs have been identified yet, but the support needed could potentially be around transport, spending time together as friends, meals, English language practice, provision of furniture, showing around the local area, assistance with admin, registering with GP, finding schools and colleges, applying for jobs. If you are interested in supporting host families please could you email Shirley Parish Office with an indication of what kind of assistance you think you could offer. Your email will be forwarded to us. (If you already have our email just email us directly.)
Wider church support needed…
It may also be that we will appeal for material needs at times and devise a simple way of doing that.
Also, at Christmas we may host a wider welcome event for Ukrainians but we will let you know about that nearer the time!
Takeaway Prayer points to pray in your homes and networks
• Please continue to watch the news – an act of solidarity with the Ukrainian people - and pray for the Ukraine but also for Russia – that it would seek a peaceful resolution.
• Pray for Ukrainians who are living in the UK and struggling in 3 areas – longer-term housing, English speaking and understanding how to integrate into the wider culture quickly and how to find jobs.
• Pray for Ukrainians who are carrying the trauma of their families, communities and nation in their hearts and minds and bodies so that they may receive respite, supportive counselling, listening hearts and ears, empathy, love and acceptance, in the ongoing trauma that war inevitably creates.
• Pray for our hosts that they will have wisdom, love and help to deal with the many complexities and perplexities of their situations.
• Pray for host supporters to provide assistance to hosts where needed.
• Pray for us as a Christian community at St James by the Park as we seek to grow into a community that anticipates Revelation 7:9..
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”