Running Towards the Disaster: Samaritan’s Purse in Ukraine

By: Amy Cheng

Christian humanitarian aid organisation Samaritan’s Purse is providing on-the-ground support in Ukraine.

Last week, the aid agency received the first patients to its emergency field hospital, which is located on the outskirts of Lviv in the country.

Executive Director Dave Ingram said disaster response is part of the core mission of Samaritan’s Purse.

“We want to be able to go there and to help people in Jesus’ name,” he said in an interview. “One of the things that Franklin Graham, our president, has always said, and I agree with firmly, is that we want to be the one to run towards disaster.

“We want to be the one to run towards disaster,” – Samaritan’s Purse Executive Director Dave Ingram

“And when a disaster happens, we want to be in there helping people very practically, especially helping them in Jesus’ name.”

On-the-ground support

Samaritan’s Purse currently has 152 staff on the ground between Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova. The emergency field hospital in Ukraine, a 58-bed unit, was airlifted via three flights to Poland on March 4 and then transported to Ukraine.

It is equipped to meet critical trauma needs of patients impacted by the conflict and contains an emergency room, Intensive Care Unit and two operating theatres with the capacity to perform 30 surgeries per day.

For further assistance, Samaritan’s Purse has also deployed two Australian Disaster Assistance Response Team members, who were previously deployed to the Bahamas to help families affected by Hurricane Dorian.

In addition to the emergency field hospital, it also has a 24-hour medical clinic at a train station in Lviv, where thousands of women and children pass through daily.

“We feel like we can be the hands and feet of Jesus there, but we go through the hands and feet of other Christians who can’t go,” – Dave Ingram, Executive Director of Samaritan’s Purse

So far, the team in Ukraine has distributed hygiene kits for about 590 people and blankets for about 80 people in Lviv.

In Moldova, the team distributed hygiene kits for about 270 people at refugee transit centres and continue to provide mobile medical care to refugees at a large transit centre enter.

The challenge of getting into Ukraine

One of the challenges for the humanitarian effort is physically getting into Ukraine, Mr Ingram said.

“The first woman from Australia left and she took 50 hours to get there because she had to go through Qatar and then somewhere in Europe and then she ended up in Kraków, Poland.”

Another challenge is Ukraine being in a warzone.

“We don’t shy away from warzones, we’ve had people deployed in war zones before; we had a field hospital set up in northern Iraq, in Mosul, a few years ago,” Mr Ingram said.

However, he said Samaritan’s Purse ensures the safety of its staff.

“The field hospital is actually set up in an underground carpark to provide a certain amount of safety from bombings and things like that.”

What Christians can do

One of the first things Christians can do is pray, Mr Ingram said.

“Pray for peace, pray for protection for people and pray for an end to this conflict, ultimately,” he said. “We do know that there are believers in Ukraine and, at the very least, we want to be praying for and supporting them.

“Pray for our team on the ground there, pray for their protection and pray for the emergency field hospital and medical clinic at the train station, that they would be very effective in being able to help people and determine people’s greatest need.”

Samaritans Purse in UkraineSource:

Mr Ingram said Christians in Australia have been actively engaged in supporting the organisation’s efforts.

“We’ve had a very good response from people in terms of donating towards the relief effort.

“We’re thankful for people who support us because we feel like we can be the hands and feet of Jesus there, but we go through the hands and feet of other Christians who can’t go.”

“Pray for peace, pray for protection for people and pray for an end to this conflict, ultimately,” – Dave Ingram, Executive Director  of Samaritan’s Purse

A good neighbour

The story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke is the basis for the mission work of Samaritan’s Purse. In the story, an injured man is overlooked by passers-by until a Samaritan comes along, who takes him under his wing and cares for him.

“That really is at the heart of Samaritan’s Purse, so we feel like that’s what Jesus has called us to do,” Mr Ingram said. “He’s called us to be a good neighbour, but especially to be a good neighbour for people who are in need.”

It is not only international disasters that the organisation responds to. Following the flooding in New South Wales and Queensland, Samaritan’s Purse has been providing assistance.

“We have a disaster response team on the ground right now outside of Brisbane,” Mr Ingram said. “We are always thankful for the opportunities we have to come alongside people in very traumatic situations and be a very practical help to them.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

All images: Samaritan’s Purse at work in Ukraine. Supplied. 

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