As HOPE International has walked with entrepreneurs in Ukraine over the last 25 years, we’ve come to cherish the dreams they have for their families and neighborhoods. We’ve seen them use their God-given talents to create incredible businesses that meet the needs of their communities and provide for their families.
Since Russia first invaded Ukraine, the headline images have shown destruction and the anxious faces of men and women who are facing the very real stresses of war. Yet amid the distress and displacement of millions, we remember the names, stories, and dreams of the people we serve. This is personal for us.
Below, we want to honor the entrepreneurship and hard work of the men and women that HOPE Ukraine walks with. As you learn about their businesses and take in their smiles, we invite you to pray for them by name.
Since 2006, greenhouse farmers have gradually come to make up the majority of entrepreneurs served by HOPE Ukraine. Greenhouses shield plants like cucumbers and tomatoes from the unpredictable weather, extending the growing season. In addition to supplementing their families’ diets with nourishing food, these farmers play a critical role in making fresh produce accessible to their neighbors. Most open-field farmers grow staple crops like sunflowers, corn, or wheat. Ukraine is one of the largest wheat exporters in the world.
Lord of the harvest, please guide Misha, Vladimir, and other farmers in Ukraine as they consider decisions like whether to move west, leaving their farms and losing a year’s income, or to stay and risk their lives. Please protect them from harm and provide the fuel, water, and fertilizer they need to maintain their crops. As we ask for a healthy and abundant harvest, we also ask that the fruit of Your Spirit grows in them as they steward their labor to care for neighbors in need.
When we started working in Ukraine in 1997, 99% of those we served were market vendors. Although it’s grown less common to sell apples on the side of the road as supermarkets have gained popularity, the war has disrupted supply chains and exhausted the inventory of many of Ukraine’s supermarkets—presenting a new, urgent demand for independent merchants and pop-up food stands.
Jehovah Jireh, we thank You for the resourcefulness You’ve given to store owners like Ludmila and Maria. Please protect them, their shop buildings, and their merchandise. Grant them wisdom to know how to supply those around them with daily necessities while staying safe. Show them the way forward as You provide for their needs. Let them overflow with Your generosity to share Your gifts with those around them.
Restaurant and café owners
From sushi to pierogies with homemade sour cream, many of the people we serve in Ukraine have a talent for making delicious food. Restaurants are hubs of fellowship, drawing neighbors to gather over a meal while also providing jobs for kitchen and wait staff. Like farmers and shopkeepers, restaurant owners must now also choose between leaving their life’s work or remaining near advancing troops. As essential food providers, these entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to serve others right now.
Father, just as You multiplied the widow’s olive oil as she shared it with Elijah, do the same today with what remains in the hands of Oleg and other Ukrainian restaurant owners. Please shelter and sustain those who must flee to safety and protect the establishments and lives of those who have stayed behind. As normal food items are in short supply and distribution channels are disrupted, please miraculously provide what these chefs and bakers need to feed themselves and those who come to them with empty stomachs. Grant them wisdom to discern how to conserve or use their resources, and fill them with faith and generosity to share with others.
The Roma people
The Roma are a close-knit community who live apart from major cities in western Ukraine and have historically been looked down upon by Ukrainian society. Because many Roma people are illiterate and speak Hungarian instead of Ukrainian, they rarely find long-term employment in Ukraine: They typically travel to major cities or Hungary to take farming or construction jobs. Yet we have come to know them as some of the most missional and generous people we serve; their savings groups have been an incredible witness to Christ both within and beyond the Roma community. Since Russia first invaded, we’ve already heard of two Roma churches that are hosting 125 people fleeing the war in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Good Shepherd who laid down your life for us, we praise You for how the Roma community embodies Your love in their posture of radical generosity. Thank You that this group has been out of harm’s way thus far—continue to provide for their daily needs and hide them under the shelter of Your wings. Just as they have pooled their savings to love others and share the Gospel for years, please show them how to care for those in their midst now: Bless and strengthen them as they house the displaced and feed the hungry. In every act of care, make Your name known—we pray that out of this hardship, prejudices would dissolve and brotherly love abound.
We invite you to learn more about how we continue to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in our March 9 update. If you missed our February 24 update after Russia first began to invade Ukraine, find that here. To help HOPE support displaced staff members and assist Ukrainian entrepreneurs and farmers, make a gift to the HOPE Ukraine assistance fund.