Words of hope for Ukraine refugees as mission agencies team up
One day after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Brandon Neal received an email.
“Hey, what can we do?” - Tom Terry.
The two men, who have worked together for some time on the audio version of the JESUS film, quickly collaborated on a way to ensure that war refugees would be able to hear words of hope wherever they found themselves.
Neal is deputy to the director of global services at TWR, also known as Trans World Radio, which brings the hope of Jesus to millions of people in more than 190 nations and in more than 300 languages. Terry is the head of global broadcast strategy for Jesus Film Project, an outreach of Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ; which has presented the Gospel of Luke to billions of people in more than 1,800 languages.
Over the last few years the two Christian mission agencies have collaborated in producing and distributing the audio version of the film, called The Jesus Story. Terry explained, as effective as the original film version is, it can’t reach everybody.
“An audio project will let you sometimes reach into an area where we don’t have television,” Terry said in an interview from the State of Washington where he was visiting family.
Although the war was only in its second day, Terry correctly foresaw the coming wave of refugees – more than 10 million Ukrainians to date, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, including over four million who have left the country.
The Story of Jesus was already scheduled to be widely broadcast in a series leading up to Easter. But Terry wondered if the schedule could be bumped up in the Ukrainian and Russian languages – both spoken in Ukraine – and if the broadcasts could reach nearby countries where many of the refugees were anticipated.
“If there’s anything you need in a war-torn country it’s hope – and Jesus offers that.”
The project came together in a couple of days and since 14 March, episodes of The Story of Jesus have been airing twice a night, once in Ukrainian and once in Russian. This schedule will continue through until 22 April explained Neal.
“We were just trying to reach as many as we could,” Neal said.
The radio transmitter used for the project reaches countries housing refugees, including the portions of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Poland that are closest to Ukraine.
Although it’s too soon to evaluate the impact of these particular broadcasts, Neal and Terry are confident that God’s Word will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11).
“My hope is that a person or a family will be travelling and that one evening they will turn the radio on and encounter Jesus,” Neal said. “I imagine a mum and kids sitting there and listening to it while her husband’s back there having to fight.”
It’s a tragic season, but it’s also opportune, Terry said.
“The bottom line for me is I want people to know and love Jesus,” he said. “And that often happens through great tragedy.”
PHOTO: Ukrainian refugees – such as these women crossing the border in Budomierz, Poland – have the opportunity to hear The Story of Jesus through an ongoing partnership between TWR and Jesus Film Project. The dramatizations are being heard in both Ukrainian and Russian nightly, leading up to Easter.