CLEVELAND — A local chaplain is making sure supplies and support from Northeast Ohio are getting to the front lines of Ukraine. Cleveland Baptist Church Chaplain Ronald Jackson says as the situation grows more dire, so do the physical and spiritual needs of the Ukrainian fighters and citizens.
“Wherever we can go to be an encouragement to these folks, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Jackson said on a Zoom call from Europe on Saturday.
In the past week, Jackson and his ministry, God Loves Ukraine, delivered 10 suitcases full of gloves, socks and other supplies to soldiers near the front lines. He’s made 14 trips to the country in the past four years, often bringing care packages with treats, bibles and messages of hope.
“We sing, we try to be an encouragement to them, we share the gospel message with them, and then we’ve got these T-shirts we put in the bags [that say] ‘GodLovesUkraine.com,’” he explained.
Jackson’s most recent trip came several days after Russian forces invaded Ukraine. He’s seen the situation escalating.
“If you could imagine a madman that is willing to annihilate and demolish an entire country and its people - that is the situation right now in Ukraine. Putin is not stopping.” he said. “There was supposed to be a window given today in Mariupol for citizens to get out, I'm talking about the women and the children, to be able to get out of the city and Russia is hitting those citizens.”
A Ukrainian soldier and friend of Jackson’s spoke to News 5 Saturday about the chaos on the ground. To protect his safety, he asked to be identified only by his nickname “Casper.”
“It’s been a horror,” Casper said. “24th February, when this all began, the road gets hit in almost every corner of our country. It happened in the blink of an eye.”
Like many of his countrymen and women, he has stood his ground to defend Ukraine.
“We can protect ourselves. Our men are brave, our men are strong. But we need weapons,” he said.
A colonel in the Ukrainian Army expressed his appreciation for the support from everyone in Northeast Ohio. In the video below, News 5 spoke to a soldier through a translator.
During a Saturday video call with members of Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy emphasized the need for more aircraft to help protect the country’s skies. Zelenskyy has been pleading with NATO to designate a no-fly zone, but the organization has refused, saying it could provoke a widespread war with Russia.
“I just don't think that the United States can stand by without doing everything possible. I don't think we need to send troops there, but they need air support. And dammit, we should get them the planes that they need to be able to protect their citizens there,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D - OH 13th District), who was on the call with Zelenskyy.
Ryan said there appears to be bipartisan backing in Congress for “some level” of air support and increased sanctions. He also encouraged Ohioans to reach out to their local Ukrainian churches and communities to best lend their support.
Many members of Cleveland Baptist Church have helped God Loves Ukraine with monetary and supply donations over the past four years. Jackson said the contributions have been generous. But with the increasing uncertainty in the region, he encourages others to donate money directly to groups in and near Ukraine, explaining shipments from the U.S. can take between 2 weeks and 2 months to arrive.
“We can buy the groceries, we can get the clothes, the blankets, the baby food and all that. And we can get that to them right now,” Jackson said. “So that's why we're encouraging folks to give because we're on the ground here and we're going in with the supplies or we're buying it there when we're in the country.”
Casper said the gifts from Jackson’s ministry have helped boost morale.
“They helped us a lot during the Donbass conflict. They visited us with gifts and aids. It was unbelievable,” he said.
Jackson is in Poland to provide further assistance to Ukrainian refugees and soldiers. He hopes to return to Ukraine in June with more supplies and care packages if it is safe to do so.
More information on the local effort to provide support to Ukraine can be found on the God Loves Ukraine website. Anyone interested in donating or helping with the effort can do so on the Cleveland Baptist Church webpage.
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