Communitas International is seeing peoples’ lives changed forever by helping churches engage in current events, and by sharing the gospel with people who don’t yet know Jesus.
As we start and shape churches, our missionaries are on the front lines, both spiritually and physically. They are a part of how God is uniting churches globally to display His glory by being His hands and feet to a hurting and broken world.
William and Sheila Whittenberg serve with Communitas in Berlin, Germany. Last spring, in a random encounter at the airport, William and Sheila met a lost, 80-year-old, Ukrainian gentleman who didn’t speak any English or German. God had prepared them for such a time as this as Sheila knows Russian from her work in Siberia many years ago…
William and Sheila found out this gentleman was from the occupied Donbas region of Ukraine. Helping this gentleman navigate his whereabouts that day prompted Sheila to begin serving the very next day at the main train station in Berlin where Ukrainian refugees were entering the country in droves.
Shortly after this, the city of Berlin asked all the churches that could to set up temporary shelters for 10 days in order to house the thousands of refugees pouring into the city daily. Berlinprojekt, the church that William and Sheila work with, and a local Lutheran church pooled their resources and were able to provide food and shelter for 70 family units and afterwards find guest families to take them in for a few more months. Sheila continued to mentor and support four family units that stayed in Berlin. Two of the wives have since returned to Kyiv to be with their husbands and remain in contact with Sheila. Two other young women and their families are still in Berlin. Sheila has walked alongside these women, going to doctor’s appointments, government offices, and job interviews together, where she was able to translate for them as well as offer cultural advice and emotional support. Further support came in finding and moving these families into their own apartments. Both of these young women are currently doing well and seeing God’s grace in their lives, but the symptoms of trauma are still there, and they panic whenever something goes even slightly wrong. Supporting refugees sometimes just means sitting with them as they shed tears over a particular situation, consoling and praying with them, as Sheila has done. But on a lighter note, it can also mean making Tik Toks together to process everything that is new.
The Whittenbergs, along with many local churches, continued to mobilize support and housing for Ukrainians trying to escape the ravages of war. Some were believers and most were not. The refugees have been wildly blessed by the hospitality and care shown to them by local Berliner churches and some have even found a home in these church families.
William, through a series of networks, was also able to connect with a church in Boryslav, Ukraine, that was and still is helping with refugees and displaced people, feeding and housing them. As churches in Ukraine and around the world mobilized to help, support and supplies from Europe and the United States have been distributed among people in dire need. The elderly are especially susceptible to being unable to leave their apartments, unable to find the food and resources they need to live and survive. Supplies such as flour and oil are vital, as are beef jerky and untraceable mobile phones for soldiers.
And churches are passing out fresh baked goods to many. William noted, “In this culture, for the Ukrainians, fresh baked goods are a sign of home, a sign of normalcy. It is a symbol of hospitality, freely received.”
William, with others, helps drive from Berlin, through Poland, to get through the border into Ukraine, a grueling day-long drive, to take these types of supplies to Boryslav, even as air sirens wail above their heads. Then the churches in Ukraine drive across the country on pock-marked roads and distribute the items to churches throughout Ukraine at a risk to their own lives. Christian brothers like Yuri, a big, burly, and brave Ukrainian, lead the way.
God is at work. He has been at work and He continues to be at work. Even through the devastation of war, the unity of the church around the world has supported the local churches in Ukraine to be able to literally be Christ’s hands and feet to feed, clothe, and shelter.
And amazingly, William gets asked about Jesus a lot more after sharing his stories about the church’s service in Ukraine. Both the unchurched and the churched are drawn to Christ through these acts of service to people in dire need!
“But we’re not going to change the face of this war through our trips,” William comments. ”The most important thing is simply for us to go and be there—to show those in need that we see you, we are with you, we the church believe in you. The outside world is watching, is praying, and is on your side.” Just as Paul wrote to the early churches, William hopes the churches of Ukraine will find encouragement as the rest of the body of Christ is with them.
As you read this, thank you so much for how you are partnering with us in growing the church and growing God’s kingdom around the world! Your support and prayers allow us to continue to share the gospel in our message and in our service. Even as we are reminded that the war between Ukraine and Russia is not over, we are reminded of the bigger spiritual battle that rages on.
Please continue to pray for safety for our missionaries as well as all those in Ukraine who continue to live in turmoil and uncertainty. Please pray for God’s kingdom to grow as the world sees the people of God rise up and serve and love, even at great risk to themselves. You are a part of the body that God uses to build up His people. We are thankful for you!
If you would like to participate in serving the least of these in Ukraine you may still donate to our Ukrainian Relief Fund HERE.