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LU Serve Now makes return trip to Romania to aid Ukrainian refugees

LU Serve sent 10 students and two trip leaders to Romania Feb. 4-10. (Photos provided)

 

Earlier this month, 10 Liberty University students and two trip leaders traveled to Bucharest, Romania, to serve Ukrainian refugees and the missionaries caring for them.

The team partnered with the Greater Europe Mission (GEM) and United Beyond Cause (UBC) and served at Holy Trinity Baptist Church, which has become a refuge for Ukrainians fleeing their homeland following the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Daily tasks included taking over some of the work typically done by church volunteers, such as cleaning and cooking, as well as packing shipments that would later be sent to Ukraine and working with the church’s clothes donation ministry.

This is the second time Liberty has sent a team to Bucharest following the invasion, which has caused tens of thousands of deaths on both sides of the armed conflict and pushed Europe into one of the biggest refugee crises since World War II. In January 2023, Liberty sent eight students and two trip leaders to serve alongside Holy Trinity Baptist Church. Both trips were facilitated by LU Serve Now.

The recent trip ran from Feb. 4-10, and like last year, the group spent most of its time serving local church members who have devoted their energy toward the refugee crisis.

“We went to this culture thinking that we were going to serve (the church members), but they did a good job of showing us Christ and serving us,” trip leader Dawson Bley said. “On a global scale, ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ (It’s about) getting together with the global church, really encouraging each other, being there for each other, and showing how we can be like Jesus and look like Jesus.”

Some of the students also visited a local village to provide Roma families with supplies.

Bley, who serves as the student development coordinator for LU Serve, noted the stark differences between the lifestyles of Americans and the Roma village people in Bucharest, whom the church affectionately refers to as their “guests.”

“It was like stepping into an entirely different world,” he said. “Here we have pristine brick buildings and there’s constant construction going on. Then you walk there, and people are so grateful for their homes, which are probably more modest.”

While students spent a large portion of their time completing menial tasks for the church, they capitalized on these moments by building fellowship with each other as well as the church workers. They also devoted time to ministering to the “guests” and hearing their testimonies. Through these conversations, Liberty team members provided a listening ear to those who were suffering while simultaneously showing them the love of Christ.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking to see them away from their families and away from their homes and everything they knew,” junior Devan Walhof said. “But it’s encouraging to see the hope in Christ they have, even in those situations. It’s been a blessing to encourage them. I’ve been able to stay in touch with a few of them and point them to Christ because He has a plan for the whole war and for them as well.”

Freshman Ryleigh Combs, who is studying government, said a large portion of her current classwork revolves around the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. While she already had a basic understanding of the war before the trip, she noted that studying the situation from afar paled in comparison to witnessing events firsthand.

“It humanized it for me,” Combs said. “It showed me that this is a circumstance where millions of people are being displaced and people have to come up with solutions for that. I definitely saw the sin nature in humanity, and that was something I had to work through.”

In addition to their ministry on site, several students took full advantage of their travel time to serve as witnesses for Christ. Combs said she and a couple of the other students spoke with a German woman on their flight and through that conversation shared the Gospel.

Combs added she appreciates the emphasis that Liberty places on service through the LU Serve office as well as the approach that the office takes with CSER (required hours of Christian service for graduation).

“Students think service is just something they have to do, but it’s not,” Combs said. “Liberty does a good job of (not just) making it a graduation requirement, but also providing a culture that supports serving. All of my professors were so welcoming at this opportunity, and they gave extension and excused absences and also wanted to talk about the trip. I really appreciate that atmosphere of hall leadership, professors, and the entire Serve office.”

Last month, Liberty hosted Holy Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Nelutu Iubas and his wife, Maria, for a Compassion for Refugees event in which the couple shared about the work that God is doing in Bucharest.

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 locally and abroad, including domestic and international humanitarian aid and disaster relief trips (LU Serve Now). For more information, email luserve@liberty.edu.

 

Students served in Holy Trinity Baptist Church’s clothing donation ministry.
Students help pack boxes of supplies that will be loaded into vans for convoys into Ukraine.
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