From cash to cabbage, churches in Arkansas are doing all they can to support Ukraine

As Vladimir Putin’s army continues to pound civilian targets across Ukraine and millions flee for their lives, churches in Arkansas seek ways to help victims of the Russian invasion .

In Little Rock, they lit candles. In Fort Smith, they bought cabbage.

The objective was the same: to help those who suffer and to express their indignation at the ongoing massacre.

At an interfaith peace service on Sunday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark warned the stakes were high, using scriptural allusions to drive the point home. See:

“Israel went through many, many trials and tribulations according to the Bible. This is ours. It happens,” he said. “We need to pray for Ukrainians, we need to pray for our national leaders here. We need to raise our voices individually and collectively, for humanitarian aid, for wise military and diplomatic policies, for the support of the United Nations and beyond. Above all, we must pray for the welfare, well-being and souls of those directly in conflict in Ukraine. They are worthy people. They are part of us. We love them.

He also urged audience members to reach out to their members of Congress and “urge them to do more militarily.”

“This country must take greater risks for freedom,” he said. “We don’t want World War III, and the best way to prevent it is to stop it before it starts. And the best place to stop it is Ukraine,” he said. he declared. “A policy that accepts no risk today is a policy that postpones all risk until tomorrow. And Vladimir Putin’s appetite is not for Ukraine. It’s much more global than that. “

As Clark spoke, Presbyterians from across the city gathered for a candlelit prayer service for Ukraine at First Presbyterian Church.

Around 100 people lit candles, offered prayers and listened to Ukraine’s national anthem on Sunday.

One of those holding a candle, Karene Jones of North Little Rock, said the service gave people a way to express their feelings.

“It’s just a tiny little way to show that we care and love our fellow human beings,” she said.

An offering for Ukraine raised $3,200 for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, one of the aid organizations rushing to help. The event in St. Mark’s raised $2,700 for Episcopal Relief & Development.

Elsewhere, the Arkansans were also eager to respond.

At Fort Smith Central Presbyterian Church, congregants used food to raise funds and awareness, said Pastor Steven Kurtz.

Meals were to be distributed on Friday evening.

“Ukrainians love their stuffed cabbage – it’s a real traditional meal for them – and borscht, which is basically beetroot soup. And so we thought, ‘Let’s give people a chance to show their solidarity with Ukrainians by sharing their supper.’… [And] if people also want to donate, we will also help Ukrainians in a practical way,” he said.

The congregation had received 130 orders by midweek.

“We’re shopping today. We’ve got a lot of cabbages to buy,” Kurtz said Thursday.

Central Presbyterian’s volunteer team found the Ukrainian recipes online, he said.

“We did a pilot test yesterday of stuffed cabbage and borscht and, oh my god, it’s so good. It’s going to be awesome,” he said.

All money raised from the meal will be donated to Mercy Corps, a humanitarian relief organization based in Portland, Oregon, which works with local organizations in Ukraine to help displaced people and in Poland, where 1.8 million Ukrainians reportedly sought refuge. The organisation, known as Save the Refugees Fund when it was launched in 1979, also provided aid during Russia’s previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Prior to his time in Arkansas, Kurtz served for 10 years at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia, helping train future ministers and other church workers from Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine.

Since the start of the war, Kurtz has heard from friends who witness the invasion unfold.

“Some of them are hosting people in their homes because they live quite a distance from where the main fighting is going on right now. Others I know are in Kyiv, and they talk about how the things get more intense, with shelling all around One of them is actually teaching at a theological college and kind of reflecting on the challenge of having hope and keeping it alive as a Christian in these times of chaos and destruction,” he said.

As students in Croatia, some of the Ukrainians volunteered for the school’s humanitarian aid efforts, helping refugees from the Bosnian conflict, he said. Now they see the war firsthand.

The bloodshed, now in its fourth week, is indefensible, Kurtz said.

“It’s so sad, so unnecessary, so dismissive of dignity and decent human rights. It’s just tragic,” he said. “Just 20 days ago they were leading normal lives and living in these beautiful, beautiful cities in Eastern Europe. And now there are piles of smoking rubble with so many dead.”

Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO

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