By: Akos Balogh

Over 4 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Europe since the war began, with 350,000 entering Hungary thus far.

I spoke to a friend of mine, Abel Lukacs Kiss, who is a Hungarian Christian aid worker with Dorcas Ministries [1], to understand the situation on the ground, how Christians are responding, and how Australian Christians might help.

Could you describe the situation of so many Ukrainian refugees arriving in Hungary? 

As you know, the overall situation is horrible.

Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes because of the war. Mixed groups of people and families of all ages are at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border every day. Hungary allows anyone coming from Ukraine to enter Hungary via four border gates, with no restrictions.

The authorities are doing everything they can, and so far, most people find long-term accommodation within a couple of days after staying in temporary shelters.

The refugees have a variety of backgrounds, and some of them have money or relatives and friends with whom they can stay. But as the war has escalated, more and more have left their homes in a panic with few resources.

My organization, Dorcas ministries, focuses on the weakest group among the refugees, including very young children, the poor, the sick, the elderly, Roma peoples, and Ukrainians who do not speak Hungarian.

What’s been the response to the many refugees by Hungarian society, Churches and Christians? 

There’s a tremendous willingness to help the refugees.

Many people have offered their homes and living rooms and extra bedrooms for refugees to come and stay with them. There is a massive amount of resources given by people at collection points. And a lot of churches are also helping at the borders by volunteering and assisting refugees in different ways.

This generosity is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my seven years of working with different target groups, raising funds and recruiting volunteers.

So, I think everybody is touched, feels moved, and wants to help the refugees, who are forced to leave their homes due to this awful war. It’s uplifting to see.

What is your Christian aid organization – Dorcas ministries – doing to help? 

We’re doing a variety of things.

We have seven collection points in the town of Debrecen for food, blankets and cleaning materials.

People can also volunteer to help, and we’re mobilizing volunteers. Some of our team are continuously calling refugees directly, establishing contact with them, and assessing their needs (scaling the seriousness with a point system 1-10). This allows us to be more precise with how we help them.

Three other colleagues are focusing on collecting aid, funds and volunteers for this crisis.

We also own a campsite. This campsite is a great place for refugees (we can host 30-40 families at any one time), except we need to renovate some areas. We are now receiving our first group of 42 refugees to stay at our campsite.

We have received enough funds to run the campsite as a refugee centre for six months for 100 people, providing free shelter, houses, rooms, bedding and food. We’re also helping them find jobs and schools for the kids. We’re partnering with five companies opening more than 100 positions for Ukrainian refugees.

(In the [northern] summer, we could scale up to 200 people when the weather is better, and we can house refugees in wooden houses).

Some of the refugees speak Hungarian, some of them only speak Ukrainian, but they are willing to work. So, while they stay at our campsite, they receive free accommodation and food. And so, when they work, they can save up and then move on to a better location, such as renting a flat.

“The refugees have post-traumatic experiences, so they are disoriented and stressed… we hope that this can be a place where they can relax and find peace.”

We want to help the families long term. This means we’re not a shelter for 48 hours, but rather a place they can stay for one to three months and longer if necessary. As we are a Christian organization, we start with morning devotions, organize Sunday services, and talk to people [about the gospel] if they’re open to it.

The refugees have post-traumatic experiences, so they are disoriented and stressed. But we are blessed to have more than five and a half acres of property with 25 houses. So, there is space for them where it’s quiet with beautiful natural surroundings, right next to a lake outside of the city.

So we hope that this can be a place where they can relax and find peace.

What else do you see Christians and Churches doing to help refugees? 

A lot of the help is focused on the transiting refugees.

These are refugees who stopped at Debrecen or in Budapest for a couple of hours or days. They receive food, clothes, whatever they need, then move on to different countries.

Our focus, however, is more to help the poorest of the poor, who don’t have much and need help for the longer term. But it’s encouraging to see the whole country and many Christian people, different denominations, helping the poor and sheltering the refugees.

What can Australian Christians pray for? 

Please pray for the war to stop: that would be the most important thing.

It’s heartbreaking to see so many people not knowing where to go and who don’t understand what’s happening. Especially when you look at the women and children with their fathers back home fighting or trying to hide. It’s just not how it should be.

“May we advance the kingdom of God through this crisis so people find hope, joy, and peace.”

So please pray for peace and that many people who are still on the road can come to a safe place as soon as possible. And as we help the refugees, we also need to be able to share the gospel with them. Please pray that we might help in the right way, despite the language barriers.

May we advance the kingdom of God through this crisis so people find hope, joy, and peace.

How might Australian Christians partner with your ministry to the refugees? 

We have enough resources to house 100 refugees at any one time for six months, but we could receive 200 refugees. And so, we are fundraising for this for the next six months. We need about 11 Euros per day, per refugee. If people can give for one refugee per day, that would be a big help.

[Note: Funds can be sent through Paypal (PayPal.Me/dorcasministries) or the Dorcas Ministries bank account]. [2]

Our campsite is 30 years old, and we closed it in December. So now we are renovating. While we have received some funds, we’re hoping to raise another 200,000 Euros to renovate everything on the campsite by October. This includes the water system, sewage system and roof insulation to make it ready for the [northern] winter.

So these are the areas that Australian brothers and sisters can join in. But we also appreciate your prayers and your sending us messages and encouragement.

(For those of you who can make the trip, we welcome volunteers for summer programs from July till the end of August).

To find out more about this ministry to refugees, visit the Dorcas Ministries website (English version).

Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh.

About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.

Feature image: by Vika Strawberrika on Unsplash