category: Campus News

Providing help for his homeland

John Pinkston, left, director of missions for Jefferson County Baptist Association, and Ukrainian native and C-N visiting professor Vova Gorbenko display items that will be sent to his home country which is under attack by Russia.

Story courtesy of Baptist and Reflector

A Carson-Newman University staffer has secured the assistance of local Baptist associations and churches in East Tennessee to aid his native country in war-torn Ukraine.

The needs in Ukraine are many, said Vova Gorbenko, who fled to the United States and eventually ended up in Jefferson City where he is now the university’s associate director of campus ministries. He also is a guest professor, teaching New Testament in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies.

“What’s happening there right now is that the Russians have attacked the infrastructure. They are destroying electric plants, electric equipment and heating plants — along with other buildings. That is their goal. Since they cannot win the war militarily, they want to stir up social unrest. 

“People are without electricity or heat in their apartments. Right now in Zaporizhzhia, the electricity is turned off twice a day for six hours. Right now, it’s cold. Last week was minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). It will still be cold through March and at the beginning of April,” he said.

“It has always been my desire to help somehow — not just in Ukraine, but especially the southeastern part of the country. That’s where we are from,” he said.

Gorbenko spoke in September of last year at a combined meeting of Jefferson County and East Tennessee Baptist Associations, said John Pinkston, director of missions for Jefferson County Association.

“I was impressed with his message as he shared about the Ukraine,” Pinkston recalled.

He noted that Gorbenko contacted him later and shared the needs in the Ukraine, especially in the winter months. Pinkston shared the needs with the association and “our churches have embraced the opportunity,” the DOM said.

“I can just imagine the despair of the Ukrainians,” he said. “We had 15 minutes during the recent cold snap in December when our power was off. I thought about how scary it would have been (if) the electricity had not come back on. 

“That sent me to my knees in prayer. I just wish we could do more to help the Ukrainians,” he said.

True Life Church in Jefferson City, and a member of Nolachucky Baptist Association, joined the effort and began collecting items and donations as well.

“It has been a blessing to meet Vova and his family,” Inman said. He is a godly man who has a heart for his people.  When he approached us about helping with this project, our thought was that we have prayed for Ukraine and wanted to do something to assist but didn’t know what to do so we were thrilled to have the opportunity.

“If you have prayed for Ukraine and wanted to help but didn’t know what to do, we encourage you to give to this project and be a part of showing the love of Jesus in tangible ways,” Inman continued. 

“It seems that God has providentially aligned Dr. Gorbenko, some local churches and associations and amazing ministries like God’s Warehouse and Harvest For Israel to partner together to collect and deliver support to these hurting people,” he added.

In the meantime, Gorbenko contacted Don Owen of God’s Warehouse, a ministry of Nolachucky Baptist Association, who agreed to ship a container of supplies to the Ukraine. 

Last year, God’s Warehouse shipped four containers with humanitarian aid to Moldova and Poland to support Ukraininan war refugees.

Because nothing flies into Ukraine, Gorbenko developed a plan of how distribution would be possible through contacts in that region who could help navigate customs. Once items were there, they would go to Baptist churches to be distributed to those in need.

“And, once I had these dots connected in my mind, I approached Don Owen and asked him if we can do it. And he was very gracious. He’s a wonderful person. He basically said, ‘let’s do it!’ ”

Owen, in an e-mail, wrote that God’s Warehouse has been “blessed to provide aid to many people locally, nationally and around the world. “We, however, have never been called upon to give aid to hurting people in a protracted time of war such as is raging now in the Ukraine,” he said.

Working with Owen, they developed a flier of information and began contacting pastors and organizations and sharing about the planned effort. 

“I want this to be not just ‘Vova’s project,’ Gorbenko stressed. “I want this to be the local churches’ project so that local churches here, especially Baptist churches, can organize together and establish a link with Baptists in the Zaporizhzhia area.

“The churches that will collect this will send it to the churches in Ukraine, and the churches in Ukraine will use these items as a tool to reach out to people who are unable to leave the country. 

“I’m just trying to be the link between the churches here and churches in the Zaporizhzhia area,” he said.

As of Jan. 18, the churches and associations have enough items to fill one container and have started on another, Owen said. “The needs are so great that we could send a container every day and still not meet the needs.”

The first container will be shipped Feb. 14, he said. They are still collecting donations to ship the containers. It costs approximately $10,000 to ship each container, Owen noted. “We know God will provide through His people,” he said.

The container will contain blankets, flashlights and batteries, power banks (especially solar), warm shoes, candles, canned food, medicines for colds, congestion, sores, rashes, towels and bedding and more.

Gorbenko noted the project has been a challenge, but not impossible. “I know it takes a miracle to send something like this, but we know someone who does miracles,” he said with a smile. 

“This is something anybody can get involved with. I know exactly where it’s going and the people it is going to. I’m excited.”

Gifts can be given online through True Life Church by clicking here. Select “Ukraine Relief” from the drop down menu.

Financial donations can also be sent to Jefferson County Baptist Association, marked for Ukraine Relief, P.O. Box 388, Jefferson City, TN 37760 or to True Life Church, marked for Ukraine Relief, P.O. Box 908, Talbott, TN 37877.


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