Update from the Tanuma Family in Eastern Europe

Hello, everyone! Kyle here.

Currently, Sara and I are both in Cluj-Napoca, Romania — the biggest city closest to the Ukrainian border in Romania. Sara has been in Romania for seven weeks and for me, four weeks. Things have been going really well. We’ve seen God move in some big ways amongst his Church here in Romania and Ukraine. The war has united God’s people in ways that I don’t think would have been possible otherwise. Christians from different countries, denominations, and walks of life are all joining together to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and proclaim good news to the poor, even if it may cost them their lives.

Every week, A Jesus Mission has anywhere from 20 to 30 volunteers a part of our team here. The two main things we are committed to are:

  1. To drive food and medical supplies into Ukraine working alongside the local church and missionaries who have stayed in the country.
  2. To work alongside a local church here in Cluj-Napoca who hosts refugees as they travel westward and provides a children’s program throughout the week for the refugees who have decided to stay in the city.

The supply runs have been going really well. The way we’ve been conducting these trips is to send four vans with eight drivers full of food into the country. As a team, we’ve been to recently liberated villages around Kiev and to eastern Ukraine. In the west, it’s relatively normal. (I’ve come to Ukraine with Final Greetings in the past.) There’s quite a few military checkpoints and some barricades in various places for defenses in cities. Towards the east, though, the war is much more felt. I haven’t been part of these deeper runs yet. That being said, I’ve been told from others on my team that many highways are a wreck, checkpoints are much more intense, and wreckage & abandoned tanks are common.

It’s been awesome to work within the church network in Ukraine. I’ve had the chance to meet many amazing individuals who decided to stay in the country and love their neighbors. I’ve heard stories of missionaries and pastors who have been laboring in Ukraine for many years without much respect or acknowledgement from their community. As they have begun feeding people from their church buildings, they are now being regarded with the same esteem as the Eastern Orthodox church. For one pastor, he shared that the locals have recently started doing crucifixes (you know, the forhead-chest-shoulder-shoulder thing) every time they pass by his church building. Even though we know that God dwells amongst his people rather than in a physical building this side of the resurrection, the locals are acknowledging the pastor’s church building as a place where God is present and his work is being done. One of the things I’ve been told over the years is that Americans have a bad rap about imposing our own agendas on other groups of Christians and taking credit for things that we shouldn’t take credit for. Because of this, I love that we’re a little cog in the machine of this network of churches. We are simply getting behind what God has been already been doing in Ukraine.

Just recently, Sara and I both were a part of an extremely smooth run that went south of Kiev in Ukraine. We’re both honored to be a part of Jesus’ body (even if it’s the elbow or tricep!) as He is the one who is ultimately bringing food to the hungry and making Himself known to the marginalized through His own body.

As for the things going on here locally, the stream of refugees have drastically slowed down this month. We praise God for this since it means that the war is causing less people to leave, but we expect that Russia is planning to make a large coordinated attack in southern Ukraine. Even though our prayers are for the war to end, the Church here in Romania is prepared to step up to the plate. It’s been beautiful to see refugees who have settled down here locally get involved with the church. Refugees are helping with translation needs, the children are forming close attachments with our volunteers, and even a man came on to help with a supply run that is happening right now.

Sharing about Jesus has been relatively easy since our actions have struck a chord with many non-believers. I spoke with a man from Canada who was visiting his family here in Romania. He asked me, “So, why would you guys ever want to go into Ukraine at a time like this?” I told him that it was simple: we follow Jesus and He commands his followers that in everything, we need to treat others as we would want them to treat us. Because of this, we believe that Jesus has sent us to help Ukraine. After a few more conversations like this with the man, myself, and my friend Garrett, he decided to give financially to Garrett to help keep him out here. Without professing to be a Christian, this guy is actively getting behind what God is doing. A friend of mine here has been speaking extensively to his landlord about Jesus and what we’ve been doing in Ukraine. I’m pretty sure the man is far from being a believer but he’s mentioned that he would like to come along and help with a supply run. It’s been crazy. People all over have been very inspired by what we’re doing out here. On top of that, I believe people intuitively know the ways of God: “It is more blessed to give than receive.” One day, I hope that these individuals will come to know and follow Jesus alongside us when this is all said and done.

I was recently asked, “How does it feel to be helping the people of Ukraine?” Though I thought it was a bit of an odd question to ask, (unfortunately, my temperament has a hard time with that kind of stuff) I shared that there’s been a lot of different things that I’ve been feeling. I’m glad and honored to help in even the smallest of ways, especially since I’ve had great times and have met many awesome people in my time in Ukraine in the past. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit heavy when I consider the huge need in Ukraine and the scope of the war. Other times, I’m even afraid of death or harm. With these more negative feelings, it’s been very important for me to continue to trust in the Christian hope that there will be a day when God will renew all things here on earth and in heaven and that death will be just sleep for those who follow Jesus. My prayer for the Church as a whole is that we would truly believe the things Jesus has told us, not just intellectually, but with a deep, worldview-shifting belief.

For those of you who have gotten behind Sara and I as we’ve responded to the war in Ukraine, we thank you. Food is being brought to the starving, supplies to the hurt, and the good news of Jesus to the hopeless because of your prayer and financial support.

– Kyle & Sara (: