Bridges of Faith returns home, plans next trip to help Ukrainian orphans
BILLINGSLEY, Ala. (WAFF) - Volunteers with an Alabama organization called Bridges of Faith are back home after a long, but successful trip overseas. The group spent time in Romania, caring for 27 orphans who fled the war in Ukraine.
“The reality is, the Ukrainian government cannot afford to care for these kids,” said Rev. Tom Benz. “They are at the mercy of their host countries, and their specific hosts within the host countries.”
Benz is the president of Bridges of Faith. He’s lead four teams to Eastern Europe since the war began. As families fled the war-torn areas, volunteers provided medical supplies at the Ukraine border, and worked to get kids to safety. They have ensured these evacuated kids have what they need, and now feed over 200 Ukrainian orphans, every day. Benz said his team even helped to sponsor a Christian music festival in Romania attended by more than 10,000 people.
On the most recent trip to Transylvania, volunteers focused on spending quality time with the orphans.
“We went just simply to share life with the kids,” Benz said. “We bought food, we put shoes on every child, we bought whatever clothing items were needed.”
The 27 orphans are living in a church that was built more than 100 years ago. As Benz said, volunteers provided an abundance of food and clothing, and even put shoes on every child. While the Ukrainian government cannot provide basic needs for these kids, Bridges of Faith volunteers strive to.
“I want people to understand that yes, we are not on the front page, we are not on the lead news stories anymore in Ukraine,” Benz said. “The crisis still goes on, and the crisis with kids is continuing. We deeply appreciate every amount of help that comes in. We will put that to good use.”
Sharing God’s love
“My wife Nancy was with me on this last trip,” Benz said. “There was a boy, he was about 16 or 17 years-old, non-communicative. He spent most of his time with his nose stuck in his telephone.”
Nancy told her husband, Rev. Benz that she was critical of the boy until a quiet voice inside her said, “You haven’t walked in his shoes.” After some time, Nancy walked over to the boy and said, “Over a month ago, in the night, God asked me to fly 10,000 kilometers and spend thousands of dollars to tell you He loves you.”
The boy’s armor cracked. The biggest evidence of that came on the last day of their trip. When Bridges of Faith volunteers were saying goodbye to the orphans, the only person the boy said goodbye to was Nancy. He didn’t just say goodbye, he put his arms around her, and thanked her for coming.
What’s next for Bridges of Faith
Bridges of Faith has sent four groups of volunteers overseas, and has two more trips planned. Volunteers are also developing a war chest to help repair orphanages in Ukraine. Benz said some locations are unlivable, and other spots need a variety of repairs due to damage from the war.
Benz plans to go back Eastern Europe in September. He’ll meet with government officials to talk about the adoption process for the Ukrainian orphans. The adoption process has been frozen since the war began.
Then, in late October, volunteers will have the opportunity to go back to Eastern Europe. They’ll share life with another group of orphans.
“Whether it’s orphanage repair, whether it’s feeding kids who are hungry, buying school supplies, we are doing our best to serve kids and to bring them through yet another traumatic experience for an orphan,” Benz said. “They understand their homeland is in serious trouble, and it will take a generation or more for Ukraine to recover.”
You can visit bridgesoffaith.com to learn more about the organization, and the upcoming trip.
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