Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Prayers and support offered locally for the people of Ukraine.

BLUEFIELD — Braving cold temperatures and chilly winds, area residents came Sunday to downtown Bluefield and offered support and prayers for the people of Ukraine as they endure the brutality of war.

Representatives of local churches met in Chicory Square for the Community Vigil for Ukraine, an event in which local people showed their support for the embattled nation enduring an invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church, the Scott Street Baptist Church, Immanuel Lutheran Church, the Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region, the Bluefield Union Mission and the City of Bluefield, the vigil was a time for prayer. Representatives of these churches and other local entities, including the local Jewish community, offered their prayers for the Ukrainian people.

People stood in the sun to stay warm as cold wind blew through the square.

“I know that it is cold and uncomfortable, but this is nothing compared to what the millions of people in Ukraine are suffering right now,” said the Rev. Lou Hays of Christ Episcopal Church. “We will be cold for about half an hour and then go back to our warm and comfortable homes and look forward to a nice dinner. Many of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are cold 24/7, have little food or medical care, and maybe no home left to go to. Many Ukrainians have died or been wounded. About 25 percent of the population, 10 million people, have been displaced, and close to four million of them are now refugees in neighboring countries. About half the children of Ukraine are either displaced or are refugees.”

A Bluefield State College student, Kateryna Dashevska, who comes from Rivne in western Ukraine, attended the vigil.

“I’m grateful to all the people who came out to support my country and democracy,” she said. “If everybody stays silent, they support the Russian regime.”

Father Michael Foster of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in Bluefield said that it was good to see so many people willing to come out in frigid weather to support Ukraine.

“For us Orthodox Christians, this strife has been particularly difficult,” he told the onlookers. “Here are two primarily Orthodox countries at war with each other. This is unnatural, and the consequences have been so severe. Ancient churches and monasteries are at risk, as well as innumerable sacred sites, places where so many saints from Ukraine come from.”

Most of all, there is the human toll inflicted by a war in which Orthodox Christians are fighting one another, Foster said. There are both physical and spiritual consequences.

Foster then shared a prayer that St. Mary’s has added to services since the war started a month ago.

“Oh god, You are our refuge and strength, and a very present help in trouble,” he read. “Hear our heartfelt supplication on behalf of the country of Ukraine. Protect those in danger with your holy angels and grant them courage. Turn back all manner of attacks. May hostility fade away. Let Your peace descend upon the whole land, so that shedding of blood in warfare, violence, terrorism, tyranny and all manner of strife may come to a swift end. Enlighten all civil authorities around the world with wisdom of diligently work for reconciliation. O Lord of hosts, we have no other help but You in times of distress: quickly hear us now and have mercy.”

Norris Kantor of Bluefield offered a prayer for Ukraine on behalf of the local Jewish congregation.

“We pray that God will continue to protect the people of the Ukraine and its leadership,” Kantor said. “Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of Peace and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the Earth. Bless our country and the Ukraine that they may always be a stronghold of peace, and an advocate among the nations. Amen.”

The people in Chicory Square and the community were encouraged to help Ukraine in other ways, too.

“Today, we have listened and prayed,” the Rev. Hays told the audience. “Now I invite you to go home and give. Give to the best of your ability to help the people of the Ukraine, those who have remained behind and those who are refugees. We have a handout that lists many organizations that should be worthy of your support. There may be more opportunities down the road to help the hundred thousand Ukrainian refugees that we have committed to receiving in our country. We will look for ways to get the word out about how you might help with that effort as information becomes available.”

Hays said that CharityWatch has announced a list of “legitimate, efficient and accountable charities providing emergency aid to victims of violence in Ukraine.”

The organizations and their websites include:

• CARE USA — care.org

• Catholic Relief Services — crs.org

• Church World Service — cwsglobal.org

• Direct Relief — directrelief.org

• Episcopal Relief and Development — episcopalrelief.org

• Doctors Without Borders — doctorswithoutborders.org

• HIAS — hias.org

• International Medical Corps — internationalmedicalcorps.org

• International Rescue Committee — rescue.org

• Lutheran World Relief — lwr.org

• Medical Teams International — medicalteams.org

• Mercy Corps — mercycorps.org

• Operation USA — opusa.org

• Project Hope — projecthope.org

• Samaritan’s Purse — samaritianspurse.org

• Save the Children — savethechildren.org

• Team Rubicon — teamrubiconusa.org

• United Methodist Committee on Relief — uncmission.org

• UnicefUSA — unicefusa.org

• World Vision – worldvision.org

Other organizations were included on the list distributed during the vigil. They included:

• Islamic Relief USA — irusa.org

• Jewish Relief Agency — jewishrelief.org

• Sunflower of Peace Foundation — sunflowerofpeace.com

• World Central Kitchen — wck.org

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

 

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