The world changed profoundly since 24 February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. This has had a strong impact on all Europeans.
We have 14 Mennonite conferences in 11 countries in Europe, all of them with their own culture, history, work within our Anabaptist-Mennonite family.
In 2018, the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Ukraine hosted our annual gathering with participants from Austria*, France*, Germany*, Lithuania, Netherlands*, Portugal*, Spain*, Switzerland* and the MWC president in Zaporizhzhia and Berdiansk.
So you might imagine when the violence began last year, people from all the conferences in Europe started asking: “What are we going to do to help our brothers and sisters?”
From the smallest to the biggest, they all wanted to help in different ways. All the conferences had a role to help what is going on in Ukraine. Some send funds, all pray, of course, and some even take initiative to bring relief supplies directly to Ukraine.
There was one conference – a small conference, located close to Ukraine – who started to help right away in a very specific, caring way.
The Mennonite Brethren church in Lithuania (Lietuvos Laisvųjų Krikščionių Bažnyčia), started to pack vans in Vilnius and drive all the way to Ukraine to share goods with MB brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
They stop in Poland overnight, pass through the border and drive on into Ukraine to meet the brothers and sisters and give them supplies. Then they turn around to drive home, often waiting hours at the border due to the long lines of people seeking to leave.
At first, they didn’t even have time to explain about their excursions; they just started acting.
I shared with other churches when I learned of this. They also sent funds and goods.
The big effort by all the rest of the European family, each of them in a different way, to bring relief was a fantastic way to show hope to our sisters and brothers in Ukraine.
This solidarity is not only between Anabaptist-Mennonite churches in Europe and Ukraine but between the European churches to help each other help Ukraine.
It is a living out of 1 Corinthians 12:26-27: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
The situation in Ukraine is still a challenge. We keep in touch as the needs continue, and we keep praying.
We thank God that hope was never lost. Keep praying.
—José Arrais is from Lisbon, Portugal. He is a member of Loures Mennonite Brethren Church and serves as MWC’s regional representative in Europe. His work of interacting with the European Mennonite church leaders, hearing their needs, challenges, and blessings, is a source of joy and motivation to prayer, and he is eager to continue deepening and adding to those relationships. José Arrais is married to Paula; they have three children and one grandchild. José Arrais spoke at Renewal 2023 – Jesus Christ, our hope – in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, 25 March 2023. This article has been adapted from his presentation.
*Indicates national churches from this country are members of MWC.