Serving in Ukraine with Samaritan’s Purse

Background and preparations 

In 2018, I applied to Samaritan’s Purse be a part of the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team). I was accepted and ended up doing my training in the US in 2019 while on furlough. Covid, our commitments in Honduras, and other life circumstances prohibited me from being deployed in 2020 and 2021. I was, however, able to take some specialized training with DART in 2021 so as to continue to narrow my focus and expand my skills with them so that I could be ready when I was needed. My call finally came on the first of April of this year in the form of a request to deploy for three weeks to help manage the ongoing operations of the Samaritan’s Purse EFH (Emergency Field Hospital) in western Ukraine.

As you might imagine, some prayer was needed as deployment with DART is always voluntary under the terms of our contract. In particular, Marinajo needed to know for sure that God was indeed calling me into a conflict zone to help. Samaritan’s Purse does a fantastic job with security, so we knew that they wouldn’t take us into an area that wasn’t deemed safe and would be as well protected as possible. We know that service involves risk, but this was a new type of risk for us to consider. God moved clearly in both mine and Marinajo’s hearts and we were both in agreement that I should go. Things moved very rapidly from this point and I was on a plane heading for my first deployment and my first trip to Europe just 8 short days later on April 9th.  

There were funny stories of the trip preparation where I rushed around Puerto Rico trying to find warm clothes. I even went to a store called Burlington Coat Factory, but nope, no coats! More than the physical part of the trip preparation, I felt the Lord start to develop a narrative in my heart about spiritual preparation. I found myself creating a playlist of songs that had sustained me in times of difficulty, including songs of lament. I knew that I was going to a place where we would encounter people who were hurting. I wanted to be prepared spiritually. I found God writing several devotions in my heart about not losing sight of Jesus when it seems like evil is winning. I was drawn back to the end of Mark chapter 8 where the disciples, especially Peter, are just not understanding Jesus as he speaks of loss and death. I remember listening to a sermon at Immanuel Nashville in which Pastor TJ asks us if  we are following Jesus, even when what is happening around us seems like all is lost, or are we trying to lead Jesus because we don’t think he knows what he is doing?  


I think all DART members would tell you that the first deployment is full of uncertainty. Looking back on my deployment, I am filled with gratitude for God’s faithfulness, but I was filled with doubt as I left!  After several long flights I arrived in Krakow and overnighted there before being bused into Ukraine. It was sobering crossing the border into a conflict zone. I have never been in this situation before, but I soon found that my time in Honduras served as an excellent preparation for the context of being in a conflict zone. Things like military presence and heightened awareness were a part of our lives every day for many years in Honduras and much of what I saw and experienced upon entry to Ukraine had a certain familiarity to it. After crossing the border from Poland into Ukraine, we drove another hour and a half or so into the outskirts of the Western City of Lviv. Samaritan’s Purse had, in great wisdom, placed the EFH (Emergency Field Hospital) and the Lviv operations in the parking garage underneath a large mall outside of the city, yet still accessible by bus to anyone who needed to get to us. We lived, ate, slept and worked underground. This allowed us to continue providing care to our patients even if air raid sirens were going off in the city.

My job in medical operations was to see that the Emergency Field Hospital ran smoothly and improve on its setup and function however possible. I found myself in very familiar territory regarding my daily duties. There was a lot of overlap between the job that I had done for the last decade or so in Honduras, helping care for the ongoing operations of Hospital Loma de Luz, and my daily duties in Ukraine. My job wasn’t to go out directly and care for persons displaced by the conflict, but rather to make sure that the hospital environment and the remote clinics were functioning properly so that the medical staff, chaplains, and translators could reach out to displaced and hurting people and bring hope and healing. I was part of the team behind the scenes keeping things running and helping to set the context for those who would help and engage with our beneficiaries directly. As such, I didn’t speak to many Ukrainian people and I didn’t bandage any of their wounds or pray over them directly. Much like my role in Honduras, I simply helped support the team that did. It was beautiful to see and hear the stories of caregiving team members come back and share how they were able to share the love of Christ and know that I played a small role on the team that made that happen.

The location of the Emergency Field Hospital became a distribution hub. Every five days we received about 50 pallets of medical supplies from Samaritan’s Purse which the team I was part of offloaded and brought into the underground area, sorted into hospital resupply pallets, and shipped off to Ukrainian hospitals in the east where the fighting prohibited normal hospital resupply. We also received in water purification systems, children’s backpacks filled with supplies, tarps, hygiene kits, and other non-food items intended to bring relief that was sorted and shipped further east. My role was to help oversee this whole process. I got to spend some quality time driving a forklift which was something I did a lot of a long time ago. I was also able to play a small role in helping to setup a distribution network for a very large amount of food that was being rushed into the area so that it could be forwarded eastward to help people who were starving due to the conflict. To see more about what Samaritan’s Purse is doing in Ukraine, follow this link:

Spiritual Reflections

The conditions that we serve in on most DART responses are austere. This DART did not disappoint in that regard. The men slept in a tent with 32 double “bunk bed” cots in them. Effectively there were upwards of 60 men sleeping in one tent at times. The “bottom bunk” of the cots was very difficult to sleep in. The top “bunk” was better, but only when there wasn’t anyone sleeping beneath you. If both levels of the bunk cots were occupied, no one was getting a lot of sleep. I must say that after my transatlantic flight and after the first two nights on site at the EFH in Lviv, I was really starting to struggle with no sleep. Conditions were cold, making both sleeping and working underground difficult. I found myself awake and desperate for sleep. In our western lifestyles, we don’t often find ourselves desperate. I know that my life doesn’t usually lead me to be desperate for anything. One of the great gifts of this DART deployment for me was that it led me to the point of desperate need for the Lord’s comfort and the Lord’s help. I cried out to him on my second night and the Lord heard me. I felt the physical comforting presence of the Holy Spirit in a way that I have very rarely experienced and I was able to get a few hours of blessed rest. The scripture from Psalms 127:2 that says “he gives his beloved sleep” has never been more real to me. I was so grateful and really felt that the Lord had heard my cry and rescued me. I want to insert here that I know that the small amount of discomfort that I went through was totally insignificant compared to so many of the people we served.  I am telling about it here because of how intensely personal it was for me and how gracious the Lord was to me in answering my prayer.  I want to give him praise for this and want the world to know that when we cry out to him in desperation, he answers.

Another time that I felt the Lord speaking to me was when I was on the forklift moving goods in from delivery trucks into the underground parking area that had been converted into a warehouse. We often had to maneuver around many motorists who were still trying to park underground. Because we were there the parking area was very limited. While they were always gracious, I didn’t exactly feel like the Ukrainians understood why we were there. It is likely that most didn’t – as we tried to keep a very low profile. Yet, sometimes I felt resentment well up in my chest given that I was there trying to help them while there was this armed conflict going on in their country and they seemed oblivious to it. I understand now that most were completely aware of the conflict and that they simply felt that they had to go on living their lives. Further, in talking with some of the Ukrainians that we served with who were from the eastern part of the country, where the conflict was much more severe, they confirmed for me that they absolutely wanted their countrymen to continue to “live their lives” and get on with the business of living. What I seemed to learn from the Lord, as it related to my life, was that I am often too busy, just as I perceived those drivers were, and often unaware of the very real spiritual war that is happening all around me. I can almost hear the angels yelling at me in my daily routine, “Hey, don’t you know there’s a war on?” in kind of the same way that my heart was objecting to the activity of the people whom I had come to serve. I think we have to adopt a “wartime” mentality here at home with regard to the vast spiritual war that we are frequently reminded of in scripture and make sure that we are not unaware as we go about our normal lives here at home. This was another way that my deployment was a real awakening for me and I pray that God keeps me “awake” to the reality of how we Christians are engaged in warfare here at home and how we ought to conduct ourselves – with love, mercy, prayer, and constant discernment of the enemy’s activities.

My prayers for this conflict

  • A spirit of unity throughout the country of Ukraine that is not based on hatred but based on their shared sacrifice and shared values.
  • For the Ukrainians who have experienced so much loss and trauma, spending weeks in bomb shelters, having lost loved ones and homes, and who are even now struggling to survive and escape or struggling to find long term shelter after having escaped. There really is a tremendous amount of suffering going on among the people of Ukraine.
  • For the church in Ukraine – that this would be their finest hour. That the church would rise up in service, strength, love and prayer. It is not too early to pray that the church would lead the way towards loving forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • For all of the people in Ukraine who are lost and asking their life’s biggest questions such as “Why is this happening?” and “What kind of evil is behind this?” May they find peace and may they find the ultimate answer that the Lord is sovereign, not only over their lives, but over all of history and may they surrender to his offer of peace and forgiveness of sins in their hour of greatest need.
  • For Samaritan’s Purse and all of the other NGO’s operating in the conflict area. For wisdom and safety and for the ability to achieve maximum effectiveness through maximum coordination for the maximum benefit of the people of Ukraine.
  • For a cessation of hostilities and for the innocent lives that are being extremely affected. For the church in Russia, that they might be emboldened to tell the truth. For the people in Russia, that they would see Christ as the only king in whom they can place their trust and who will never fail them.