from Billy Drum, Romania/Ukraine
We’ve come to visit a house where our partners are housing Ukrainian refugees. In this modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, there is a strange juxtaposition of both joy and shock. Even under the difficult circumstances, a culture of hospitality still reigns and we are invited to come in and have a cup of tea. While adults are in various states of emotions, there are several children playing happily around us. A couple of the children have used the small kitchen table to make a blanket fort and I’m struck by the fact that some things are the same in every culture.
There are three families sharing this home that is being provided by All4Aid. It is one of several housing aid projects that the organization is providing here in Romania. Three families are sharing one kitchen and one bathroom. Three entire families in a three-bedroom house with only 4 chairs at the kitchen table, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone. I am not sure how many people make up these three families. There are people everywhere, various generations, and some have stayed back in the bedrooms and not come out. Sometimes grief requires solitude.
One of the adults says, “It is good to have a place, to have somewhere safe to stay. It is good. But it is also hard sometimes. There are a lot of us in one house (laughing). But we are safe and we have food and clothing. So it is good.”
All4Aid and their volunteers are providing for the needs of the people in this house and others like it. Through donations, they provide the housing, food, clothing, and other basic necessities.
“We have food. We have shelter. We’re good”, says one of the elder men, a grandfather to some of the little girls.
“Bombs were falling everywhere. Bombs destroyed our city. We had no choice. We had to leave.”
“We want to return, to go home. We will wait here until that is possible”, says another.
One of the younger men has a disability – a back problem – and could not stay behind to fight. “I just want to work. I want to be useful again. I need to find a way to do something.”
One of the women in the house is an accountant. She is able to continue working remotely. The business that she supports in Kyiv is trying to keep doing business. She works on a laptop that she shares with another one of her housemates.
The communication in the room is a mix of Russian and English. A cross-cultural worker who has been serving in Ukraine for many years is here with us and is helping us by translating and giving us cultural guidance. This work would not be impossible without her training, experience, and assistance. One of the older teen girls has absolutely beautiful, perfect English. Between all of us, we are able to communicate well.
The eldest gentleman says to me, “I am too old to learn English, so you need to learn Russian so we can talk more!” A moment of laughter as we visit and drink tea.
I am here on a two-fold mission. I’ve come to give help to our partners at All4Aid in whatever capacity I can. Yesterday, that looked like laying flooring and hanging cabinets and doing other renovations in a building that will soon house more refugee families. It also looked like visiting with a local pastor about his work and what his current needs are. I looks like driving a frightened young woman to the airport to board a flight to safety in another European country as she escapes the war. She takes with her only a suitcase and her violin (she was in the orchestra). Later this week, it will look like driving a vanload of vital supplies into Ukraine to hand them off to Ukrainian pastors who have stayed behind to serve their people. We will be filling the lists they have sent to us, things that they cannot get because their supplies are now depleted. Oil, flour, pain medications, and other items. We will fill the van and cross the border alongside Red Cross trucks and other humanitarian aid and deliver to our contacts on the Ukraine side.
My other focus during this trip is to give care to refugees and refugee workers. Listen to their stories. Help them process trauma and grief. Sit with them, let them talk, hear the cry of their hearts. As I sit with these families, I’m realizing the importance of care in the waiting, care during this time of limbo. No one knows how long this war will last. No one knows how long they will be away from their country. No one knows what next week or next month or even next year will hold. And that alone causes a special kind of stress and tension and unrest. The stress and fear of the unknown is a heavy weight. For refugee workers, the weight of carrying the stories of others can break you. It is vital that they, too, are receiving care, a listening ear, encouragement, and rest.
The losses have been great already. Loss of home and country, loss of jobs and schools and friends. Loss of everything ‘normal’. Those are the obvious and the big losses. But some losses are less obvious. One of the teen girls lost her birthday – it occurred as the family ran from bombs and was in the frantic middle of an escape. Forever, she will remember her birthday as the day the bombs fell on her town and they ran for their lives. This is how trauma embeds itself in the brain. It latches on to memories and holds on tight.
It is difficult to stay present, to stay in the moment and not think of my own family and my own circumstances. While I live far from my homeland, it was a choice I made, and I always know that I can return. That is not so for these families. They live in the unknown. When will they be able to go home? What will they find when they do return? Life will never be the same again. I have to consciously bring myself back to a ministry of presence and stay out of my head while I’m with them. I can process and debrief later with others who can help me work through all that I’m seeing and hearing and holding in my heart.
While the adults are talking and the children are playing and we are enjoying tea, a cell phone rings. It is a video call from the husband and father of one families staying in the house. He is still in Ukraine, fighting the war. The wife talks to him for a bit, then the little girls go and talk to their father. And the mood of the house completely changes. The joy and laughter and playfulness is suddenly replaced as the girls become withdrawn and somber. “They don’t know how to handle their own emotions,” someone says. “They don’t know what to do with how they feel.” And in a matter of moments, minds shift back to the war, to home, to loved ones left behind.
If you would like to give to help us help Ukrainian refugees, please go to our special project account at
Nueva Vida Mosaico on the TMS Global giving page.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!