Political unrest in Ukraine surges on, and even though Jeremiah’s Hope has not been affected physically, its mission efforts could be impacted.
Jeremiah’s Hope is a nonprofit organization based in the Ukraine that works with at-risk children.
Andrew Kelly, co-founder of Jeremiah’s Hope, graduated in 2001 from ACU and moved to the Ukraine in 2004 where he met his wife who has lived there for 17 years.
“I went to Ukraine as a high schooler and went over with a ministry to do work in camps and teaching the Bible, and met orphan kids and fell in love with them,” Kelly said. “So I continued for eight years through high school and college every three months, and after eight years and 20-some trips I decided to move there and open a home for teenage orphans coming out of the orphanage.”
Once he married his wife, they moved north of Kiev and began developing the ministry compound that has a camp, rescue shelter and medical and dental outreach.
“We haven’t been affected at all,” Kelly said. “Everything that has been going on has been happening in Kiev the capitol. We live in a rural community, we have no paved roads and we have no running water in our community. People in our community are subsistence farmers, they have 16 kilowatts of electricity for the entire village, our ministry property has 164 kilowatts just for our property. And so you can see there is nothing in our community. And so we haven’t been affected at all because its untouched, even the town of 10,000 next to us, nothing has happened there either because it is of no political value.”
Still, church groups and organizations have been cautious in sending over missionaries.
“We have teams right now that are coming this summer that are starting to panic and one team backed out, and we have other team leaders calling and saying, ‘what do I tell my teams?'” Kelly said.
Jeremiah’s Hope has received ACU interns from World Wide Witness in 2007 until 2012, and have had two college groups from Hillcrest visit in the last two years.
“We are not sending anybody to the Ukraine,” said Larry Henderson, missions coordinator for World Wide Witness. “We are very sensitive to world events.”
“WWW is also not sending students to Venezuela, Kenya and Nigeria because of the unrest in those countries,” he said. “There is some unease in Thailand, but it has not turned violent like it did in the Ukraine.”
Jeremiah’s Hope was once located in Mariupol but is now located closer to Kiev and the protests.
“My wife and I have been down to Kiev and we have been down among the protestors,” Kelly said. “And we’ve stood with the protestors. We stand with the people and what they are fighting for.”
Kelly was not present during the violent outbreaks. However, he is part of the efforts to bring hope to people of Ukraine during these turbulent times.
“It’s been amazing to us to watch as the people have protested, there has been a huge prayer tent down in the middle of all of this,” Kelly said. “Within the barricades is a prayer tent that is manned by orthodox priests, ecumenical pastors and its run 24 hours a day. They are handing out Bibles and the gospel of John to anyone that’s down there. On average there is 100 people an hour going into the prayer tent to pray.”
The Ukrainian national anthem is also sung every hour, and a priest or pastor gets up on stage to pray for the nation and share the gospel.
“It’s a unique revolution in that they are standing up for freedom and democracy but at the same time they are seeking God’s direction in how to go about doing that,” Kelly said.
Kelly and his family visited Abilene this past week, but he said they know they need to go back.
“We feel like now is the time to go home,” he said. “The country is in a topsy-turvy situation and people are looking for hope. And God doesn’t call us to be comfortable, if anything he calls us to be uncomfortable. I think too often Christians focus on what’s going on and forget that we are called to be above that.”
There are all kinds of banners in Maidan, also known as Independence Square, where the riots and violence have been, but there is one banner in particular that speaks to Kelly and his family’s mission.
The banner displays John 15:13 which states, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”