Recently, we spoke to British national Sam Hughes, a children’s worker from the Isle of Wight who has been living in Odessa, Ukraine, for the past 5 years. He thanks us for our prayers and support and urges us to keep remembering those affected and not stop praying.

Describe what life is like for you and the OM team in Odessa at the moment?

The country continues to quake with the ongoing horror of war, but we as a team are feeling calm. We know God is with us, and we experience His peace.

Initially, the explosions were intimidating. I remember the first night we heard the sirens. We rushed for the basements – afraid and overwhelmed. Since then, we’ve become more used to the noise, like we became so used to masks during COVID.

Odessa has remained fairly safe, but we took precautions at the start of the war and based ourselves with the OM team in Vinnytsia, which has been a strategic location for serving Ukrainians fleeing into neighbouring countries. Yet despite adapting to the situation and having some physical distance from the initial danger, we still live amidst such uncertainty and grief.

We have a heightened sense of dependency on the Lord. Prayer and praise are more readily on our lips than ever before.

In the summer, our team returned to Odessa, and many of my fellow OM workers were relieved to go home. It’s a sobering reality to think that such a homecoming is now impossible for so many Ukrainians.

Why did you decide to stay in the country amidst all the uncertainties?

You consider the needs of the community more than individual needs in this culture. I took my cues from the rest of the team, deciding to stay with them and taking appropriate precautions to stay safe.

This is a time for the gospel; a time for the Church to be a light amidst the darkness. There are such specific needs the Church can respond to, and many opportunities to point to Jesus. Of course, God will do all this without me – it’s His mission! – but I wanted to be a part of it.

I’m comfortable here with the culture and the language, it’s become my home and I felt I could be more of a blessing if I stayed.

How has ministry changed in recent months?

Over the last few months we’ve entered a transitional phase, moving from being reactive to thinking strategically and prayerfully about what’s ahead.

For a long time, our ministry was responding to the needs around us; considering our resources and figuring out how we could use them to serve. We redistributed food we had in storage ready for summer camps that never happened, and put our camping gear we use for outreaches to good use.

Our OM bases became places of shelter for those fleeing to neighbouring countries and resembled warehouses as we partnered with local churches to create food parcels and distribute essential aid.

This new phase is about taking stock and planning for the near future. For some of the team this means taking necessary rest, for others it’s about adapting existing programmes or prayerfully considering how to develop new ministries. This summer we’re grateful to have been able to run camps for children in Vinnytsia, even amidst the increasing security challenges in the area.

In what ways have you seen God at work?

We are so aware of God’s protection over our team – bringing us to safety and freeing us to serve.

So many Ukrainians who may otherwise never have encountered God’s love through a Jesus follower, have passed through our OM bases. God has worked through us to have healing conversations and be a witness to the gospel through our lives.

One elderly woman, Inna, who has been living in the OM base in Vinnytsia since the start of the war, recently gave her life to Jesus!

And amidst all that is going on, we were able to send 25 Ukrainian teenagers to attend TeenStreet in the Netherlands back in August! Praise God!

What can we do?

Keep praying! When the news dwindles, ongoing tragedy can leave the forefront of our minds – Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria... We, the Church, must remember and persist in prayer for Ukraine, and for other nations.

Knowing we are held by the prayers of Jesus followers across the world brings so much hope – not an arbitrary hope, but a certain hope of God’s healing and restoration that will come.

Thank you for standing with us. You can find resources to help you pray specifically for Ukraine below.

Pray for Ukraine