Christian ministry Joni and Friends has helped evacuate more than 300 people with disabilities from Ukraine.
The ministry, led by author and speaker Joni Eareckson-Tada—who was permanently disabled during a diving accident more than 50 years ago—endeavors to offer practical resources to people around the world affected by physical disabilities while also sharing the hope of the Gospel with them.
According to Joni and Friends, more than 2.7 million Ukrainians reported living with disabilities before the conflict erupted. That number will “sadly be much higher” as fighting continues, and the “needs will multiply,” the ministry said.
With the help of its in-country partner Galyna, Joni and Friends has facilitated six evacuation caravans across the Ukrainian border into Poland.
“Just imagine if you’re a quadriplegic like me,” Eareckson-Tada said in a recent interview with CBN News. “I can’t use my hands. I’m in a wheelchair, and if you were on the seventh floor of an apartment building and you’re in Mariupol being bombed, and there were rocket strikes, it’s not like you can jump out of bed, grab a few things, rush out the front door, make a dash for the border.
“… Galyna and our teams have been out searching for these people, even in the most dangerous eastern parts of Ukraine, to rescue them and get them across the border and to safe haven in not only Poland but Germany and the Netherlands.”
Before the conflict began on Feb. 24, Joni and Friends was in the process of constructing a disability center in Ukraine called Joni’s House. But once fighting commenced, the ministry pivoted quickly, reallocating the building supplies meant for the disability center to helping protect civilians.
“All the concrete, all the cement, the cinder blocks, the lumber, everything ready to go for the construction of Joni’s House in Ukraine, we suddenly … redirected to be used to shore up homes and care facilities for the elderly, to protect people with disabilities,” Eareckson-Tada explained.
“So, those items all were put to good use not in constructing a Joni’s House but, of course, barricading people so that they might have a safe haven,” she noted.
Joni and Friends’ most recent blog post stated that the ministry is “committed to caring for Ukrainian refugees impacted by disability long after they cross the border” by providing shelter, hygiene products, medical attention, clothing, food and counseling for psychological trauma for at least a year.
“In the days and weeks ahead, let’s keep asking the Lord to protect and oversee evacuations to come, and meet the long-term needs of people with disabilities from Ukraine,” the ministry added.
Photo: Courtesy of Joni and Friends