My wife Arenda is a Dutch citizen, so the embassy of the Netherlands warned us a week and a half before the war that we had to leave. But we did not listen and stayed at home.
It was unbelievable that there would be a full-scale invasion, the maximum we feared was serious military action in eastern Ukraine. So, despite the warnings, we continued to develop the family business (we have a bakery, a cafe, and a center for people with disabilities, and I am also the manager of a company that produces baking mixes) and even started to build a new large warehouse.
On the first day of the war, we were shocked, we didn’t know what to do. My wife began to pack our bags. But we saw that there was a huge queue of cars on the way out of the city, as well as in Kyiv, so it was also difficult for us to dare to move. The first night we hardly slept. And on the morning of the second day, we understood that we must help people.
As Christians, we have seen that God gives us the resources we need to manage properly. We have a bakery, ingredients for baking bread, there is a cafe where we can cook and where we can invite people who need help. We didn’t just have workers — the bakers went to safer places. Then we invited volunteers through social media. Many people responded, now there are about seventy volunteers.
We started baking bread. We found large cauldrons in the warehouses, and now we cook soup there. Hundreds of people who need bread and hot food come to our cafe every day: those who could not leave — mostly older and less well-off people, some of whom eventually ran out of money, and our guests — refugees from other parts of the country. There are people to whom we deliver food straight home.
When you work and help others, it is much easier to experience the horrors of this war. We feel this way, and our volunteers confirm this belief. Most of our team are Christians, members of local churches: Baptists, Pentecostals, and Catholics, everyone working together. Our ministry is not only to distribute or deliver food, but also to comfort someone, give hope, and simply listen to people. We feel great responsibility: we have now become an example for many. So we are not talking about leaving Brovary at the moment — we cannot leave the God-given resources and people who need us.
However, we do not make any plans, we live today. A few days ago, a shell hit a warehouse near ours. So we understand: perhaps the moment will come when our ministry will end, and meanwhile we do what we can.
We have great support from friends and relatives abroad, in particular from the United States and the Netherlands — they follow our activities through social media and send money, as well as humanitarian aid, which we distribute through the church in Brovary and surrounding villages.
Our friends from abroad provided generators for several village churches. Now, these buildings can, if necessary, become a good shelter for the villagers. So we see how God leads us even in such difficult times.