By Laura McKillip Wood
June Johnson, who served in Ukraine as a medical missionary with CMF International for 24 years, until the war started, has found a way to continue serving many of the Ukrainians she cared for previously, but now in a different country.
June began working in Crimea in 1998, but she was forced to relocate to Kyiv when Russia took control of Crimea in 2014. Since then, June has worked with people with special needs and has facilitated short-term trips for nursing students from the United States. (I wrote about June’s calling and her ministry last September in Christian Standard).
THE AGAPE CENTER
Before the war started in late February, part of June’s ministry included working with the AGAPE Center, a Christian rehabilitation center in Lutsk, in western Ukraine; the center is for Ukrainian people with neck and spinal injuries who require wheelchairs. Five weeks before the war started, she helped the center purchase a van with a wheelchair lift.
June was in America when the war started, but she remained in close contact with her Ukrainian friends. She learned early on that many patients in the center and their families were evacuating to Poland and on to Germany, where they are now staying at a retreat center and continuing to receive the care they need. (Meanwhile, the AGAPE Center in Lutsk, Ukraine, is being used to house refugees as they make their way to safety. They can stop there, have a hot meal, and rest before making the remainder of the trip.)
In the early days of the war, June quickly organized and sent a large shipment of humanitarian aid to her friends still in Ukraine, but she was determined to do more. She was concerned for all the AGAPE Center evacuees in Germany; they had only one nurse caring for their pressure wounds and other physical needs. June decided to go to Germany to help care for the AGAPE Center refugees. She arrived in Germany, bringing with her much-needed medical supplies, and jumped right into caring for those she knew from Lutsk.
June said God is also working through others to help meet the needs of those AGAPE patients. For example, a wheelchair company representative visited the Ukrainian evacuees and brought some of the highest-quality wheelchair cushions with him. When he witnessed the need firsthand, the representative gathered even more equipment for the AGAPE patients; his company donated more cushions, a pressure relief mattress, and several customized electric wheelchairs. Later the representative, his wife, and their two sons appeared at the retreat center and distributed toys to the refugee children living there.
People from the community in Germany also actively support the refugees staying at the retreat center. They sometimes bring clothes, cakes, and jams for the patients and families. A neighborhood woman brought zinc paste that is beneficial for some patients. And the nearby pharmacy and medical supply store are selling necessary items at cost. June is hearing similar stories from refugees in other places.
“I am grateful to God for how he has moved in the hearts of Europe and beyond and how they have welcomed and cared for Ukraine’s refugees,” she says.
MINISTRY IN UKRAINE
CMF International has created a special fund to supply humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The fund is providing aid through June’s Ukrainian church to local bakers to bake bread and prepare soup for people in occupied areas nearby.
The new effort, called Bake4Ukraine, gives the food away to people who need it; they network through contacts to deliver food to soldiers, the elderly, and families with bed-bound children. In one day, Bake4Ukraine delivered 1,700 loaves of bread and 1,200 bowls of soup!
The funds also help support three other ministries in Ukraine that are feeding, housing, clothing, and giving critical medication to refugees as they travel toward western Ukraine and/or the border.
“My heart moves back and forth between three realities, each happening simultaneously yet starkly different from each other,” June says. “There is the raw, sickening evil reality happening in Ukraine. There are [also] the hero stories—courage and sacrifice within Ukraine by so many. Then there is the generosity and support from so many other countries. Stories pour out of those around the world giving food and clothes; medicine and professional skills; equipment and funds.”
To support June Johnson as she serves Ukrainian refugees in Germany,go to https://give.cmfi.org/donate/june-johnson.
To give toward the general CMF International Ukraine relief fund that is providing resources to partners serving Ukrainians, go to https://give.cmfi.org/donate/ukraine-relief.
Laura McKillip Wood, former missionary to Ukraine, lives in Papillion, Nebraska, and writes about missions for Christian Standard.