Last year about this time, Barb and I - like just about everyone else on the planet - were looking forward to celebrating the end of 2021 and the advent of the New Year. Barb was in the States for medical issues from December 2021 and returned to our home in Chisinau in mid-January 2022. Things were just returning to normal . . .
AND THEN, on the morning of February 24th, everything changed: Russia invaded Ukraine, the nation that borders Moldova to the north and east.
Overnight, more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees began pouring over the border in the dead of winter. Most of them were women and children, and they had fled with nothing more than they could grab on their way out the door as their cities and homes came under brutal attack.
Where were these people to go?
Knowing that Moldova did not have the resources to provide for the basic needs of so many people, and that the top-heavy bureaucracies of the large relief organizations would be days or weeks responding, Minjin and other small relief organizations, missionaries across Moldova, as well as hundreds of churches and
concerned individuals sprang into action.
Minjin immediately launched an appeal to our supporters and within days we had sufficient resources to purchase three second-hand 9-passenger vans, for which we enlisted drivers who, for the following weeks, traveled back and forth to the borders picking up people and taking them to safety. Meantime, Barb was on the phone day-and-night, helping to coordinate a nationwide network of churches, organizations, NGOs, and individuals who could provide shelter for the influx of refugees, within Moldova and on to other European Union countries. The Moldovan government, it must be said, also did their best to open large venues for their accommodation, but the resources of this poor nation to provide
food, clothing, medicine, blankets, and mattresses were beyond government capacity.
ENTER PHOENIX: Most of you are familiar with Phoenix Centre in Riscani - a small city in the north of Moldova - with which Minjin has been closely involved for many years, and which many of you have supported generously. Its Founder, Victoria Dunford - a Moldovan married to a Brit and living in England - put out an
appeal on the Isle of Wight for donations through her non-profit MAD-Aid (Moldova Aid, parent of Phoenix) for the goods mentioned above. Her hope? To gather enough to fill two articulated lorries (semis) and send them across Europe to Phoenix, where a local businessman had made his new warehouse available for use as a distribution center. The response to Victoria’s appeal was immediate and overwhelming. Within hours the two trucks had been filled to capacity, and another truck was needed, then another, then another.
Some were rented, others were provided by transportation agencies, and the volunteer drivers came from the National Telecommunications Company, the Royal Mail, CHUWA, and others who gave these men and women time off with pay to make the trips.
And donated goods kept coming! Not only the items listed above, but stoves, refrigerators, generators, toys, diapers, women’s products - everything you can imagine to support an influx of people equivalent to 10% of the Moldovan population (the equivalent of 35,000,000 entering the United States in the space of a week!) and soon the massive warehouse was full to bursting! This was something Victoria was unprepared for. What to do with all of these materials? How to identify those most in need of them, then - how to get them there in a timely fashion!?
ENTER MINJIN - First, we helped Phoenix hire two reliable Christian women with whom we had worked in varying capacities for years, Snejana Bostan and Anna Cebutari. Snejana was placed in charge of the warehouse and the distribution of supplies. Anna was sent to Phoenix Centre where she prepared 22 apartments to receive about 100-150 women and children a night, under emergency conditions. In both cases it was not merely moving and handling physical material and shuffling people, but dealing with endless pages of documents without which, it seems, no government can allow any work, however humanitarian and urgent, to go forward. And they were dealing with three or more governments! Nevertheless, both these women performed
heroically and tirelessly. Snejana was at the unheated warehouse (freezing!) from sunup to beyond sundown every day, sorting through the masses of supplies as they came in: cataloging, managing the teams of volunteers who came to help, among which were many refugees, and coordinating distribution through
Barbara. Barbara was in touch with everyone, which included coordinating efforts with the Ukrainian ambassador, to make sure refugee centers were identified and their immediate needs met.
In time the big relief organizations took over rescuing people from the border, freeing our vans to serve as delivery vehicles for the relief. For his part, David became Santa Claus, delivering van load after van load of desperately-needed supplies to churches and relief centers throughout the country. The second van was helping refugees at Phoenix. The third van was given to a local church,
whose pastor was an integral part of the refugee effort. Note: All three vans have been repurposed for local ministry, but are available for any Ukraine-related work: two at Phoenix, one at the local church.
Soon the number of people coming over the border became a trickle. Of the 350,000 who, by that time, had entered Moldova, most had moved on to homes of relatives and sanctuary elsewhere in Europe. But over 90,000 remained, and they were still sleeping on mattresses on the floors of crowded homes, churches,
and public buildings. Their survival needs having been met, they needed long- term housing. For our part, Minjin sent out an appeal for electricians and, within weeks, a team arrived from the States, Wisconsin especially, and completely rewired the complex!
Meantime, Minjin - realizing the importance of continuity in the children's education - transformed a large room at the complex into a classroom and equipped it with 16 laptop computers, so classes could be taken online. There were three Ukrainian teachers living there, and they and the mom’s helped coordinate the classroom. Meanwhile, David delivered food, clothing, and other supplies to this and other camps throughout Moldova. When the refugees are no longer there, the laptops will be used by the facility for computer camps as outreach for children.
Eventually, things fell into a manageable routine. Supplies kept coming from the U.K. (more than 18 semi-loads by April!), and Snejana and Barbara had worked out a system that worked well and could respond immediately to most any need that might arise. David continued his delivery chores - by this time much of which consisted of beds, mattresses, refrigerators, freezers, and generators for the camps.
Anna had succeeded in transforming Phoenix Senior Care Home (which the government had forced to close during COVID) into reasonably comfortable accommodations for 100-150 hundred women and children, and retrained the staff to meet their needs, as well as finding the refugees themselves chores to keep them occupied, and programs to keep the kids entertained and motivated. Phoenix Home has now returned to being a residential facility for senior citizens and is operating at around 75% capacity.
Then, in April, Barb and I were invited by Hope International, a Christian finance organization that we had been loosely affiliated with, to come to Ukraine to speak encouragement to several churches in the western part of the country - to which many IDPs (Internally-Displaced Persons) had fled from the east. Over the
course of several weeks, David spoke and held concerts while he and Barb led mentoring groups for young adults. As you may imagine, many of the stories we heard were heartbreaking. Meanwhile, Russian bombs continued to fall across the country.
Soon after this trip, we were made aware of the Nadiya Project, an effort by Nadiya Tkachenko, Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen, to reclaim an abandoned Soviet- era elementary school (much like that from which Phoenix arose!), and transform it into apartments and Living Center; for about 100 refugee women and children. Nadiya's ambitious program would cost about $450,000, and she
wanted it to serve as a template for similar centers throughout Ukraine as millions have lost their homes. By September, she had raised about $150,000 and all the plans and government documents were finalized. After getting to know Nadiya personally, Minjin began raising funds to help her complete the work.
We were planning to return home for 6-8 weeks in the summer, as we always do, so David set up a series of concerts from Florida to Texas to South Carolina and Maine to raise support for the Nadiya Project and, together with an email and Facebook campaign, and several generous donations, were able to add another $20,000
to her coffers. In the fall, another $25,000 was donated to this project by Minjin supporters.
At a concert in S.C., we met Starla Revels - a friend of David's long-time singing companion Cindy Murphy-Orr - whose told us that her brother, a recently retired doctor, was looking for the opportunity to serve in Ukraine. Minjin provided the opportunity, and Dr. Curt was soon with us in Chisinau while we made arrangements for him to go to the front lines in Ukraine. Once there, he began training soldiers as paramedics and his efforts and those of his team will likely be responsible for saving many lives, both civilian and military. We expect he'll tell his remarkable story one day. In the end, he made it safely home and hopes to return to Ukraine early next year.
When Barb and I went to see the Nadiya project in person in October, great progress had been made (see video Nadiya Project: Home for 100 at right).
During that time we were joined by two young volunteers from our churches in the States, Job Clark, 18, whose grandparents attend Anastasia Church in St. Augustine, and Jonas Rowan, 21, who attends Christ Community Church in Daytona. These young men, having no idea what they were getting into, worked long days in very cold temperatures, mostly moving concrete blocks and other heavy objects, and they did so diligently and without complaint. Amazing young men and great examples to us all.
We were also joined by our son, Jason, who flew from LA to oversee production of a video chronicling the project for the Nadiya Project. As some of you know, Barb and I became sick leaving Ukraine, necessitating a week’s recuperation in Budapest.
A lovely city, one of my favorites, but not a pleasant time as much of it was spent staring at the four walls of our room. We were there to take Jason to the airport to fly back to the States, as Budapest is the closest airport to where we were in Ukraine.
In addition to helping the Nadiya Project, we've been able to channel tens of thousands of dollars to Ukraine through Hope International and local churches known to us, to upgrade church facilities to house refugees; purchase food and humanitarian supplies for churches to give out to people most effected by the
war (often at great risk to their lives, as they go to newly liberated areas, close to the front lines); portable stoves and generators for soldiers on the front lines; and most recently, churches where they are much needed. - providing gathering places of warmth and hot meals for a population that is spending much time in cold and darkness due to the Russian destruction of civilian Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
Also, acting in concert with Phoenix, Hope Ukraine, and the Nadiya Project, Minjin arranged for the transport and distribution of 26 top quality hospital beds and mattresses to a Ukrainian military hospital providing care for wounded soldiers.
Everywhere these men and women go with supplies, they go with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And from reports in many areas, churches are growing with people who have given their lives to Jesus. Pray for them!
We also contribute money to the Ukrainian Embassy in Moldova, which daily takes critical supplies to Ukraine to help those most effected by the bombing and those in newly liberated areas. Their big push now is to acquire generators.
Since our return to Moldova from Ukraine/Budapest, we have been occupied with paperwork as we sort out our Residency Permits. We've had our mechanics overhaul our little car, Minjin, and one of the vans, Minjin II, that is currently at its permanent home at Phoenix, transporting disabled children to and from the daycare center.
We've also had the great pleasure of hosting Dr. Bill Andrews during his fourth visit to Chisinau, and catching up with our dear friend Jim Penberthy, "Mr. Moldova", who has been visiting Chisinau regularly for over twenty years in his work: business as missions, in which he teaches and trains Christian entrepreneurs and helps set some of them up in business.
We continue our regular Tuesday night fellowship dinners, which you'd have to see to believe, and David is co-leader of the Tuesday morning men's Bible study that meets at a local coffee shop. Barb hopes to start up her women’s Bible study in late January, which was stopped because of the war, and we await the arrival of her brother and sister-in-law in January, when they come to visit their son, our nephew Tim, who is teaching English at a local language school. Ministry support for those organizations Minjin has worked with for years continues, such as ICF church, Phoenix Centre, La Via, and Dancu Farms, as does the financial for them and
other Moldovan outreach.
In all, Minjin's supporters have sent us over $400,000 for the work outlined above, detailed accounts of which will be available upon request. Our admin/personal support expenses are running around 5%, which includes support and personal expenses, fundraising, and administrative costs. Please note, ALL of those to whom and through whom we provide support are known to
us personally, people and organizations we have fully vetted and, in every instance, they have proven themselves worthy of Minjin's support.
Regarding Ukraine, our immediate goal is to raise another $40,000 to help Nadiya complete her renovations, as well as continue to raise funds for generators and emergency winter supplies. We will continue to work closely with the Ukrainian embassy here in Chisinau to render service in whatever way the Lord allows. God’s provision through His people continues to amaze us, and we are grateful to all those who donate. It’s hard to explain how dire the need is, and how the light of Jesus continues to shine in the darkness, so David hopes to travel to southern Ukraine in the near future to do a short documentary in an effort to continue telling the ongoing story in Ukraine.
In early spring, David will be producing a video series about Moldovan agriculture for/with our dear friend Angela Zimmerman, an agronomist with a Christian organization called Ag Connect, who has lived in Moldova about 6 years.
Spring! What a wonderful thought. But between then and now lies a barren, brutal winter that has already seen power outages here in Moldova. In Ukraine, it's MUCH worse. Our hope, our prayers, and our every effort will be to help as many people as possible through to the bright promise of that now-distant spring.
God bless you all. Please provide any guidance or advice, or ask any questions, prompted by this update.
Our thanks for your willingness to serve as our advisors and those to whom we are responsible for the work of the Minjin Project.
God bless you,
David and Barbara
BOMBS WERE HEARD IN MOLDOVA
On the morning of February 24th, Russia launched an unprovoked and merciless attack on Ukraine.
THOUSANDS FLEE THEIR HOMES
Within the first few weeks of the invasion, 350,000 Ukrainians sought sanctuary in Moldova, equivalent to 10% of the country's population.
UKRANIAN CITIES IN RUINS
...this is what they left behind: indiscrimate destruction of their homes, hospitals, schools, nursery schools, and infrastructure.
THOSE WHO REMAIN MOURN
Estimates vary wildly, but it is generally accepted that at least 17,000 civilians and 40,000 soldiers have been killed since February.
RELIEF ARRIVES FROM MAD-AID
As of the date of this post, 20 semi trucks filled with every kind of necessity have been donated to the relief effort by folks in the U.K.
THE CHURCH RISES!
Floorspace in churches, government buildings, sports complexes, and private homes throughout Moldova were cleared for refugees.
One of our vans, Minjin II, was constantly on the road - day and night - either rescuing refugees or delivering supplies to refugee centers.
ANNA (l), SNEJANA (r) w VOLUNTEERS
Almost superhuman - Anna and Snejana are genuine heroes for their remarkable work - in challenging conditions - for refugees.
PARTNERS TAKE GOSPEL TO THE FRONT
Our associates regularly take the dangerous trip to the front lines to deliver life-saving equipment as well as Bibles and the Gospel!
NADIYA TCHEKENKO (r)
For us, it was love at first sight. Nadiya - a Ukrainian living in the States, is the kind of person who will sacrifice for her vision.
NADIYA PROJECT - HOME FOR 100
Here's a video overview of the Nadiya Project - as of October, 2022. Much left to be done, but soon 100 women * kids will be warm & dry.
ANDREAS (l) LEADS PROJECT
Andreas is Nadiya's foreman for the project - and immense job requiring skill, diplomacy, leadership, and the ability to get it done.
TUESDAY NIGHT FELLOWSHIP
With only minor interruptions, Tuesday night fellowship dinners continue at our house every week - even when we're not there!
MENTORING IN UKRAINE
During our time in Ukraine, we reconnected with young adults - many of them refugees, to whom we had ministered in the spring.
HOSPITAL BEDS TO UKRAINE
Victoria Dunford or Phoenix found herself with a huge donation of high-end hospital beds, and nowhere to put them. We found a place!
CONCERTS FOR UKRAINE
We traveled the country during our summer Stateside with concerts and a presentation to draw attention to the plight of Ukrainians.
Gregg Montella, (m) founder of Heroes International,, together with Dr. Curtis Rollins (l) who taught medics on the front lines for six weeks.
SPEAKING OF HEROES!
Job Clark and Jonas Rowan, volunteers from partner churches in Florida - our home state - took on heavy-lifting for the Nadiay!
JASON FILMING DOCUMENTARY
Our son, Jason - a filmmaker in Hollywood, took time off to come to Ukraine to film a fund-raising documentary for the Nadiya Project.
STOVES FOR HEATING & FOOD
Minjin had a Ukrainian metalworker make dozens of small, portable stoves for soldiers on the front as well as for homes without power.
MINJIN SUPPORTS THE TROOPS
Minjin supplies our network of associates with food, medical supplies. tents, blankets, stoves, boots, socks, & bulletproof vests - together with pocket-sized Ukrainian-language New Testaments.
SLEEP: THE MISSING INGREDIENT
Working with various suppliers, Minjin has delivered many portable, rool-up mattresses like this to soldiers on the front line.
WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT...
Minjin has bought and shipped about twenty powerful generators - mostly to churches in Ukraine, so people will have a place to gather for warmth, light, power for their phones, and warm food - and to hear the Gospel!
...BUT THE KILLING CONTINUES...
You never know when, or where, the next missile will fall - but every day hundreds of innocent people find out. If not on their home, then perhaps a neighbor's, perhaps their child's school, maybe their business or place of employment. The tension is unbearable for many.
WHEN YOU LOOK WITH YOUR HEART
I wrote this song late in 2021. I never dreamed it would apply so forcefully to the coming year. My dear friend Charlie Miller arranged the score, and Karina Ionova, a Ukrainian student studying in Chisinau oerformed the vocal. Lord, may it be so.