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Romanian pastor shares insight on Ukrainian refugee crisis and ways to help at LU Serve event

Liberty University welcomed Romanian Pastor Dr. Nelutu Iubas and his wife, Maria, to a Compassion for Refugees event on Tuesday, where they highlighted the work they are doing for Ukrainian refugees to meet real needs and spread the Gospel in the midst of war.

Dr. Nelutu Iubas speaks at a Compassion for Refugees event on campus. (Photos by Brooke McDuffee)

The event was hosted by LU Serve and open to all students interested in learning more about the current Ukrainian refugee crisis and how they can be involved. Following the presentation, Nelutu and Maria sat down with LU Serve Director Steven Gillum for a time of discussion.

Nelutu serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Baptist Church in Bucharest, Romania, and is a leader for the Ukrainian Bucharest Church 22 (UBC 22) network, which ministers to Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing the country due to the Russian occupation. He said the ministry includes both Romanians and Ukrainians working together to help their neighbors.

Liberty University has made connections with and continues to support the ministry. In January 2023, LU Serve Now, Liberty’s disaster and crisis response program, sent a group of eight students and two leaders to Bucharest to serve alongside UBC 22 and the Greater Europe Mission (GEM). Another trip is planned for Feb. 4-10 to again support these organizations in their efforts to aid refugees who have fled Ukraine due to the war.

On Tuesday, Nelutu acknowledged that the technical name may be “refugee,” but UBC refers to them as “guests” to help them escape the mentality of victimhood that is often associated with being a refugee.

In addition to meeting the physical needs of these individuals, UBC 22 also aims to alleviate any emotional and psychological issues.

“What makes our ministry different is that we approach people holistically. We are not only giving them food, a bed to sleep, and shelter. They are coming to the shelters, and they are bringing their stories with them — different things that are part of the war, how they ran away, what they experienced, and all of that,” Nelutu said. “It’s not enough just to give them a bed, give them a pillow, give them a blanket, give them some clothes and food, but we actually take time to sit and listen to them. And it’s not just to stay and listen, but we let them pour out what they have on their minds and soul and then say, ‘Let me pray for you.’”

Left to right: Nelutu Iubas, Maria Lubas, LU Serve Director Steven Gillum

As they care for these guests, UBC 22 workers also prepare them to in turn serve those who are coming behind them. UBC 22 allows refugees to remain on site for three days without any responsibilities but then requires them to serve in the local church or leave the compound to continue their journey to safety.

“In that particular moment, this person who is from Ukraine is stepping out from the position of victimhood and starts to serve with the disciple of Jesus who is there,” Nelutu said. “Two things are happening: first, he or she is exposed to the Gospel, the love of God, and what the disciple of Jesus is doing in the center; second, they are willing to do something and not stay stuck in mentality of being a victim and someone who was hurt and saw all of the tragedy of the war.”

In addition to caring for the refugees who arrive at churches that are part of the UBC 22 network, Nelutu and his team also prepare and send convoys into Ukraine that are stocked with food and other supplies. At the beginning of the Russian occupation, they sent three convoys (of around 12-14 cars) into Ukraine every week, but as the conflict has continued, the number of convoys has decreased to three each month.

Nelutu, who have visited Ukraine over 30 times in the past few years, said the supplies reach those still in the warzones and on the frontlines of the conflict.

(During Liberty’s trip to Romania last year, students helped prepare supplies for the convoys. In Fall 2022, LU Serve partnered with World Help to send supplies (clothes, vitamins, hygiene kits, medical supplies, and other related items) to be distributed by GEM and local Baptist partners in Ukraine. The supplies were made possible by donations to the Liberty University Fund for Ukraine’s Future.)

Nelutu said at the end of the day, the purpose of the mission is to ultimately to spread the Gospel.

“It’s not about the food, it’s not about the clothing, it’s not about the shelters, it’s not about us, it’s about Christ and the Gospel,” he said. “That makes our ministry different than many other ministries.”

“The refugee ministry is a hard ministry but it’s a blessed ministry,” he added. “You can see lives be changed for eternity. It’s not about us, it’s not about UBC, it’s not about the people who are there or the people who are coming there. It’s about a God who has a greater plan and a greater future and who is ready to change lives every day.”

Nelutu shared three ways in which students can contribute to the UBC 22 ministry. These included praying, taking part in future trips to Romania, and sharing about the ministry with their peers and family members.

In addition to his work with UBC 22, Nelutu also serves as the M4 Europe regional director for Southeast Europe and the Balkans. M4 Europe is a church planting movement that works to see a new church planted in Europe every day.

Nelutu said that his desire to serve those in need, whether through M4 Europe or UBC 22, stems from his passion to follow God’s will for his life.

“To care for the orphans, widows, and stranger or refugees, is part of the Gospel,” he said. “If you don’t do that, that means that you don’t understand God’s heart. If you don’t care about these people that are in a vulnerable place, that means you don’t understand God’s heart. God’s heart is beating for these people, so when my church and I go to serve these people and make them part of church ministry, we are actually doing what God is asking us to do.”

After the discussion, the floor was opened for students to ask the Iubas several different questions about their roles in the ministries. Responding to a question about dealing with fatigue while serving, Nelutu said that he chooses to view his mission as a calling instead of a chore.

“When you do the work for God and know that God is calling you to that work, the fatigue starts to be a bit different,” he said. “It’s there and you deal with it, but the energy to keep going is not coming from your body but from the Holy Spirit. If we believe God does miraculous things, He can take away our fatigue and push us.”

LU Serve exists to Train Champions for Christ by providing engaging educational and ministry experiences for students. This is accomplished through intentional partnerships with organizations that embrace and support Liberty University’s mission and purpose. LU Serve provides meaningful service opportunities such as CSER and CSER trips, LU Serve Now domestic and international humanitarian aid and disaster relief trips, and Serve Lynchburg. For more information, email luserve@liberty.edu.

 

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