SEBIS, Romania – As the war in Ukraine escalates, one missionary organization with area ties is working to provide aid to fleeing refugees just over the Romanian border.
Barnabas Ministries, which was started in 1993 by Emlenton-area native Daniel Hurrelbrink, is a faith-based Christian organization dedicated to protecting, providing hope to and strengthening the families of children and teenagers in rural Romania through education, empowerment and advocacy.
However, Russian aggression in the neighboring country of Ukraine has created a more pressing need.
In a recent letter sent to some area congregations that have ties to Barnabas Ministries, Hurrelbrink explained that an estimated 800,000 Ukrainian citizens have already fled their country into western Europe, including Romania.
“Approximately 70 percent of these people are passing through [and] need help with information, food, shelter and transport, ”he said, pointing out that the remaining 30 percent of the current refugees are displaced and in need of temporary shelters. As a result, volunteers in border towns are taking them into family homes, hotels and other available spaces.
This “first wave” of refugees is not the end of the crisis, according to Hurrelbrink, as an even bigger surge is expected. A “second wave” will expectedly include those who do not have western contacts and are displaced with no safe place to go.
“The first wave we are experiencing now mainly consists of upper- and middle-class people just passing through to get to family in other European countries,” Hurrelbrink said on Monday following a weekend trip to the Ukrainian border crossing where he and his children experienced personal encounters with the refugees. “Many are just passing through Romania on their way to other countries in Europe where they have family members or friends willing to take them in.”
People coming in the second wave, he explained, will likely be much more poor and come to Romania with no relationships or possibilities to move farther into western Europe.
“They possibly will be staying in Romania for a longer period of time, depending completely upon help from the people of Romania,” he said, adding that many of these refugees will hope to return to their homes in Ukraine eventually. “This is the group that we are mainly preparing to help.”
Hurrelbrink reported that his team at Barnabas Ministries is networking with contacts in Ukraine that are getting people out of the villages surrounding Kiev while trying to keep their communities together.
“The first buses out of that area will be coming to us as soon as an evacuation corridor has been made,” he said, pointing out that the buses will mostly contain children, women and the elderly. “At the moment the people are trapped, [but] the first 50 will come to us and we will be responsible for housing and feeding them for the next weeks. “
To accommodate the refugees, Hurrelbrink said that they have opened Casa Ezra – a ministry center in Sebis, Romania – to those who are now in transit and will provide food, housing and transport to all who come. This building can provide housing for up to 15 people maximum.
In addition, he explained, Barnabas Ministries is also preparing to house a group of refugees at the Children’s Camp located about 10 miles from Casa Ezra in the small, mountain village of Laz.
“Up to 50 people can stay fairly comfortably for now; however, we’ll need to invest in a better sewage system, water well and emergency generator to handle that number of people for a longer period of time, ”Hurrelbrink said of the Children’s Camp which provides summer programs for children and teenagers.
Hurrelbrink said that while these projects can be completed quickly, and will continue to be useful in future, camp preparation will cost roughly $ 13,000. He added that finances are very much needed at the moment since the crisis took everyone by surprise.
“The people coming have already gone through so much, and our hope is to offer a safe place of refuge where they do not have to worry about housing, food and basic necessities,” he said, noting that 100 percent of all money donated for “Ukrainian refugees” will be used for that purpose.
Those interested in donating should make checks payable to Barnabas Ministries and mail them to PO Box 23, Emlenton, PA 16373. Donations can also be made via the organization’s website at www.barnabasministriesromania.org. Hurrelbrink also asked for prayer for the situation at hand, and said that anyone wishing to volunteer is more than welcome to join the team on site in Romania.
While he admitted that the current problem is “massive, with no easy fix,” Hurrelbrink said with thousands of Ukrainians crossing the border each day “with only the clothing on their backs,” and many more still trapped in their country, it’s very apparent that something needs done immediately.
“My hope and prayer is that this war will stop and these people can return home as soon as possible,” he said, adding that Barnabas Ministries and other Romanian residents will continue to help refugees in any way for as long as possible. “We do not know exactly how long or how many people we will be able to sustain, but one thing I know is that we will take things one step at a time, and do everything in our power to help those who come our way. “