In late April 2022, Reverend Jason Nelson was called to travel from The Woodlands to directly assist with the humanitarian crisis on the Ukraine-Poland border and care for those in need. It’s his story.
how was your trip?
Since my return from Poland and Ukraine, I have answered this question many times and my immediate answer is always one word: intense.
What are the current living conditions like for tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees sleeping on cots in abandoned warehouses and exhibition centers with little or no access to basic necessities? Intense.
What is it logistically like to house all these war-displaced people who are bewildered and stuck in a perpetual state of confusion and whose levels of despair and anxiety are rising in the face of an uncertain future? Intense.
How would you describe the emotional, psychological and spiritual pain resulting from diabolical acts of destruction and festering within families separated by distance or death? Intense.
From the moment I arrived until the moment I left, my heart heard (even before the translation) the intensity of the voices of the suffering as they shared their painful plight with me.
A Ukrainian mother has described how she and her children survived for weeks in a shelter in eastern Ukraine under Russian occupation collecting rainwater, unable to retreat for fear of being shot by soldiers in the streets… their children watching babies being born in crowded rooms and walking over the corpses of the deceased whose bodies could not be moved.
Another mother recalled a bomb hitting her apartment building and described how the shrapnel entered her 9-year-old daughter’s legs and then the other. This attack led her to believe that her 16-year-old daughter had been killed because she had not been able to find her for weeks. Tears of joy fell from her cheeks as she introduced me to her 16 year old daughter and told me that her 9 year old son was recovering with the use of both legs.
A sister has told how she and her younger brothers fled their housing complex as Russian soldiers went door to door throwing hand grenades into the front rooms of people’s apartments to put their war ideology into practice burned.
The 70-year-old Ukrainian’s friend, Nadiya Trubchanikova, told of her flight from the kyiv region when the Russian army occupied it. While the woman survived, the occupiers killed her son. For more than a week, she hitchhiked from her village to Bucha to search for his body before finally finding it.
These are just a few glimpses of the gravity and reality of the situation for the Ukrainian people. I have many more stories recorded in my journal of greater intensity and even more etched in my memory and written in my heart. Maybe I’ll share them one day.
What I can say, however, is this: it was a privilege to help, to support, to listen, to cry and to pray with the Ukrainian people. If the opportunity arose, I would return in a heartbeat.
But right now, they need my prayers and they need yours. Let’s make these prayers…intense.
Jason J. Nelson is an ordained elder of the Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Texas, author of the Party life, and a member of the Woodlands Township Board of Directors. He holds a BA, MA, M.Ed. and an M.Div. degrees from Trinity International University, Trinity Graduate School, Houston Baptist University, and Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. In the spring of 2021, Nelson was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology for his service to the church, his commitment to his community, and his contribution to the fields of theological and biblical studies. Nelson is a published author and is regularly invited to speak across the country. He is an advocate for education, mental health awareness, breast cancer research, and community/global outreach ministries. He and his family moved to The Woodlands in 2013. Learn more about jasonjnelson.com.