How Kingdom Bridges are Built
In the village of Shabo, Ukraine, in early June, Pastor Jeff Copeland met in the shade of trees on the edge of a vineyard with the pastor of the local evangelistic church. After a long heart-to-heart conversation in which the Ukrainian pastor shared with vision for reaching the area with the gospel, Copeland said—“This is what Kingdom Bridges is all about.”
As Jeff continues to travel throughout Moldova and Ukraine, encouraging and supporting Christian leaders, he sees God’s hand in the timing and preparation of Kingdom Bridges “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14). The ministry was officially launched with a time of dedication and commitment on April 30 in Robertsdale. Supporters have invested 85% of the total needed to keep Jeff and Monica focused full time on this work over the next two years.
“We believe the Lord is bringing Beauty from Ashes. The war is ugly, yes evil. In the darkness the light is shining through local churches throughout Ukraine and Moldova,” Jeff said.
“These churches are standing strong under pressure...The Lord is moving through His church in Eastern Europe. We are praying for churches in America to enter partnerships with these wonderful churches. We build the bridge for your church to walk across into an intentional, relational, partnership that will change your church and bring beauty from the ashes of the war.”
Plans Accelerated by War
The pastor of Robertsdale, Ala., First Baptist Church for 23 years, Copeland had felt a growing call to mission partnerships in Eastern Europe. His transitional plans were in place, but were dramatically accelerated by the outbreak of war in February. Sharing with RFBC on March 13, after his first visit to the region since the outbreak of war, Copeland explained “How Kingdom Bridges was Built.”
“I’ve looked into their eyes as I’ve watched them cross the border. I’ve had their tears on my shoulders. This is a human crisis of our brothers and sisters, who are suffering greatly. And it has everything to do with us,” Copeland shared. “We’ve got massive human suffering taking place, massive.”
There are three principles involved in Kingdom Bridges:
It starts with Matthew 6:10, where Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jeff’s work in Moldova and Ukraine led him to “see ministry partners from all over the place coming together and doing things in ways that just weren’t shaping an individual church but were reverberating throughout the world.”
“And a passion really got in my heart that that’s what Jesus has called us to. That we can come together and that we can work together and we should desire to see heaven come to Earth. We should see the rule and reign of Jesus. That’s what His kingdom is. It’s nothing more than the rule and reign of Jesus Christ over my life, your life, and over the world in which we live in,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve also noticed there’s a lot of places on this earth where His will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen?
“That’s our mission. That’s what God put us here for.”
The next principle is a kingdom value. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus talked about His kingdom working like yeast.
“I like making homemade pizzas. The first thing is that yeast is very small. You don’t need to use a whole lot of it. But yeast has to have the right conditions. A certain temperature, a certain mixture of things together makes that condition to really make the yeast work. That’s what Jesus said is the value of His kingdom. It’s not the big things that we see. It’s the small, sometimes insignificant things that we think don’t matter. But the Lord says, if it’s done for Him, his name, and his glory, it matters,” he said.
“One small act of light in the kingdom of Jesus can repel darkness and every one of us, every one of us, needs to focus on the small act of Jesus’ work that we can do right where we are.”
In Matthew 16, Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock, I’ll build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Jesus is saying the kingdom of God would come from heaven to earth “those small acts that when done in the name of Jesus and applied into this fallen world that we’re in.”
“In the ministry I’m going into, that’s what it’s all about—Bringing that together and building bridges and connections to where that happens, where the people of God network together and come together and apply ourselves to the evil and darkness and brokenness of this world so that we can see heaven come to earth and God’s will come to earth,” he said.
Kingdom Bridge’s first connections were built in 2001 in Chisinau, Moldova, with Pastor Alex Malancea and his congregation and family. After years working in Moldova, Jeff helped start Roads of Hope with Joe Savage. Then, God led them to partner with Emmanuel House, and the Baptist Union through its executive director, Ion Muron, and a network of 50 orphanages all over Eastern Europe. That led to the partnership with the church in Belgorad-Dnistrovsky. Therefore, when the crisis came, Kingdom Bridges partners in the gospel were in place.
“When the war broke out, and when the bombing started, of course immediately we get the urgent, urgent cries of our Ukrainian brothers,” he said. “They said, ‘Our people are heading to this border--Can you help?’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we can help. Anatol Malancea, our partner from 2001, owns a factory just 20 minutes away. He’ll be there.’”
Then came the question of how to get people from the border at Palanca, Moldova, to shelters.
“What can we do there? I said, ‘Well, our longest-standing partner, Alex Malancea and Holy Trinity Christian Center is open with a full medical clinic, kitchen, and room to take care of hundreds of refugees,’” Jeff said.
Then when the needs grew even larger, Muron mobilized churches and camps all over the country to care for thousands of refugees. The appeal for donations went out on social media and one post had over 80,000 people view it and $60,000 came in in a few days. That allowed a food supply line to begin run by Josh Lilly of First Baptist Robertsdale and Pavel Malancea, who pastors a church near Chisinau after miraculously surviving a life-threatening stroke just a few years ago.
“We got in and tried to go through the normal channels. We got in to try to get the big stuff through. Gridlock. So, we found a way into the border to back a truck up to one side of the Moldovan border and our partners took their short drive to the other side of the border,” he said in March.
That model of building strong personal gospel partnerships and linking them with each other for mutual support and growth now continues full time with the launch of Kingdom Bridges on April 30.
‘Tell Me About Jesus’
Jeff said a reporter asked him, “how long will you think this will be going on?”
“I said, ‘Well, considering that a madman has just destroyed one of the poorest countries in Europe, whatever he does with it after he leaves it, there’s a mountain of work that will go beyond weeks or months into years,’” he said. “But we’re committed in Kingdom Bridges, to engaging in that work and keep doing it for the glory of Jesus to see heaven come to earth.
“Thousands of people are responding to Jesus... people are like, ‘Tell me about Jesus’ and they’re doing it. It’s incredible what God’s doing and how lives are being changed in the midst of all this.”
To support, partner with, or learn more about Kingdom Bridges visit this link.
Halfway through his book of Acts, physician Luke's perspective shifts from third person “they” and “them” to first person “we” and “us” as he joins Paul's team. For physician Dr. Andrew Daigle of Murfreesboro, Tenn., that personal connection in the Kingdom Bridges medical ministry began in late May when he met the Coada family of Chisinau, Moldova.
Working with hundreds of Ukrainians either displaced in Moldova or returning home to the hardships of war, this team quickly bonded based on their mutual calling to offer medical care in the name of Jesus.
Drs. Igor and Galina Coada and their daughter, Victoria, became an integral part of the Kingdom Bridges’ first official project since its April 30 launch, demonstrating the model of partnerships the ministry seeks to build.
Daigle is Medical Director for s2lrecovery.org and also an emergency medicine provider with Middle Tennessee Emergency Physicians at regional Ascension Saint Thomas emergency departments around Murfreesboro. Originally from Louisiana, Daigle has been on mission to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami, and twice to Moldova. Asked in March about providing medical assistance in Ukraine, Daigle was eager to go. As their departure day approached, Daigle and Craig Myers prayed for Moldovan or Ukrainian doctors to help them know how best to prepare. God answered that prayer powerfully as Moldovan friends living in the Nashville area connected them to the Coadas.
"Through my text conversation I began to sense that I was joining with a like-minded physician and that we shared in our goals of helping patients in distress. Once I arrived in Moldova and met Drs. Galina and Igor, I knew we would make a great team!" said Daigle.
Dr. Galina was just who I had hoped to connect with, and we had ongoing text conversations. It was only after I arrived in Moldova that I discovered she was using daughter Victoria as her text interpreter! But through our conversations, I was even able to obtain a critically needed hand held ultrasound device which is very difficult to get in that region. And with the inconsistent mail system means, that direct hand-off is needed especially for critical supplies."
‘I Feel Privileged’
Dr. Galina completed high school by the ninth grade and began attending medical school at age 15, graduating at the top of her class. Her medical career has focused on cardiology, emergency medicine, gynecology and infectious disease. She was a department director in a hospital doing teaching and training. Growing up she had lived for a time with her grandmother, a devout Orthodox Christian who taught her to pray the Lord’s prayer. She met Igor while in college and they both began attending Speranţă (Hope) church and volunteering at its Immanuel Clinic. Igor was a strong Christian and gave her a gift of a Bible. Later she began struggling with psoriasis: “It was getting bad and I repented and prayed for God to heal me.”
“Through a lot of experiences and miracles, he helped me get closer to the Lord,” she said of her husband. That experience is part of her motivation to give so much time to the ministry, working nights and weekends traveling to see patients in their homes. Since the start of the war that pace has increased for the couple, but Dr. Galina said, “I feel privileged He chose me to serve other people.”
“Usually, people think that the patients are lucky to be helped. I have been thinking I was lucky because God made gave me the responsibility to serve...I am thankful God is using me,” Galina said.
Dr. Galina said that from the start of the war, Christians were sending out tents, food, clothes, drinks, blankets and providing transportation to bring refugees to houses, churches, and camps.
“For sure this would have been worse without the Christians. From the first day the population mobilized, but after a time the ones not in the church got tired. The ones who remained were the Christians,” Galina said.
Daigle used the opportunity to help teach Victoria, who is following her mother’s footsteps as a first-year medical student.
"I could not have had a better interpreter than their daughter Victoria, who had just finished her first year of medical school. She later revealed to me that she chose medicine after watching the dedication her parents showed in their patient care," Daigle said.
Mudbugs in Moldova
The strong partnership in the gospel was demonstrated in a humorous way on June 5 as Myers and Daigle prepared to leave. A “Cajun” by background, Dr. Daigle had been joking during the trip that he wanted to find the Moldovan and Ukrainian equivalent of crawfish. After searching several stores and restaurants he had given up. But on the last night in Moldova before leaving, Myers, Daigle and the Coadas met for dinner. Afterward, Dr. Galina said she had a special gift and from the back of their car pulled out of bowl covered with aluminum foil. Inside was a full serving of...cooked crawfish!
Run to the Battle: Believers on the Spiritual front lines in moldova and ukraine
Lilly, the church secretary for First Belgorad-Dnistrovsky Church in Ukraine, shows a room originally designed for youth ministry that now holds food and clothing for helping local residents in need. The church that opened Feb. 20, 2022--just four days before the war--has been meeting every evening for prayer and worship, and feeding tens of thousands of local residents including returning refugees.
“(In) understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.” 2 Cor. 6:6-7
That word in three languages was commonly used in Ukraine and Moldova to describe the response of Christians to the death, destruction, and disruption unleashed by Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion.
Before the governments, before the large NGOs, it was faithful followers of Jesus Christ who rose to the occasion in Eastern Europe by rushing to the border to comfort, transport, feed and shelter victims in obedience to Christ’s command in Matthew 25:31-46.
A church in Moldova transports and cares for nearly 2,000 refugees. A family in a village takes in 240. A volunteer network of drivers picks up refugees and takes them to safety. A congregation in Ukraine feeds 1,500 people in one day and meets every night for more than 100 days for worship and prayer. In its first official “bridge” project, Kingdom Bridges Ministries partnered with and supported these efforts through a network of resources, funding, and encouragement with a goal to “help the helpers.”
This team was smaller by design due to the logistical challenges, featuring founder Pastor Jeff Copeland and Ronnie Hall from Robertsdale, Ala., First Baptist, and Dr. Andrew Daigle and Craig Myers from Murfreesboro, Tenn. From late May through June, they found themselves humbled, thankful, and challenged by the faithfulness of God’s people every step of the way:
⇒Starting in Chisinau, Moldova, they reconnected with Holy Trinity Christian Center, which team members have partnered with for 20 years. Pastor Alex Malancea’s congregation had taken in nearly 2,000 refugees over three months. They also started a mobile medical clinic and directly transported Ukrainians to safety, many rushing to the border in their own vehicles to bring displaced people to their homes and churches at their own expense. In late May, Daigle and Myers fellowshipped and worshipped with church members who took a short pause to clean up, resupply, and refill their spiritual reserves to continue this ministry.
Describing the work of the church, this veteran spiritual leader’s eyes teared up as he shared how the church packed meals for refugees to eat on the journey and how one little girl said that was the best part of the traumatic experience.
“And you realize how these are people who cannot offer a thing in return,” Pastor Alex said, his voice breaking with emotion as he compared that to God’s grace in salvation.
At Holy Trinity, Daigle and Myers met the amazing Coada family--Drs. Igor and Galina and their daughter, Victoria. Dr. Galina went to med school at age 15 and graduated at the top of the class. Since February, the family has traveled virtually non-stop around Moldova to provide medical care for refugees.
Asked about the response of the Body of Christ since the start of the war, she thought for a moment and said, “very beautiful.”
“I was moved. All churches sent teams to the border with food and transportation,” Dr. Galina said. “For sure it would be worse without the Christians.’”
While in Chisinau, this team of doctors went to several locations to provide care and counsel to refugees, and developed a strong bond in Christ. Having prayed for a translator for the team, Daigle and Myers quickly realized God had led them to the best—Victoria, a first-year medical student whose amazing English was combined with knowledge of medical terms and genuine compassion for people. Victoria would become a part of the Kingdom Bridges team for the duration.
⇒Camp Vatici—One of their first stops together was a Christian camp in Vatici north of Chisinau, which had taken in hundreds of refugees. The number was down to about 70 on Sunday, May 29 when Daigle, Myers and the Coadas saw several dozen people.
One was a young man named Alexei, whose college education was interrupted by the sounds of war. He and his mother came to Moldova from Nikolaev, Ukraine, an area near the front. He said he was surprised by the help from such a poor and small country like Moldova, and the “beautiful” location where they were staying.
Camp director Mihail Senogaci said the transformation of the summer camp into a shelter started the second day of the war. He put out a message on Facebook saying, “we’re open for refugees,” and it soon filled up with groups of 80 to 180. The day of this visit, displaced children were seen enjoying a playground and basketball court, paddling a boat around a pond, or riding a zipline across the water. Senogaci described the ministry as “hard but beautiful.”
“They came during the night after waiting at the border. They were insecure, stressed and we smiled and welcomed them warmly,” he said.
Senogaci became a believer while serving in the Moldovan army when someone challenged him to read the Bible for himself. For him, repurposing the camp as a shelter for those in need was a natural outgrowth of his faith.
“I am so glad I met Jesus in the Army and started to live life according to His teaching,” he said. Throughout the ministry, he said, supplies would show up at the right time from unknown sources— products showing up at the camp or anonymous donors saying meet me at the store and I will buy what you need.
“Christians were involved before the government, taking care of refugees,” Senogaci added. “The government came in after two weeks and asked us what to do.”
⇒Antonesti, Moldova: Moving south, Daigle, Myers and Viktoria stayed with Igor and Christina Oprea. This couple with four children of their own has cared for numerous foster children. Since the war began they also had taken in a total of 240 refugees into their home, one of several built around Moldova and Ukraine by a German philanthropist for families who agree to raise orphans there. In nearby Caplani, elderly home director Viorel Cebotagi showed the team a children’s home being built across the street which received funding from an anonymous donor through Kingdom Bridges. Viorel shared how several people in the village who were out of town said, “Let refugees use our homes.”
⇒Palanca, Moldova: At a camp built for temporarily housing and processing refugees, Myers met members of a volunteer Christian transportation ministry. One of them, Igor Socot, explained how Moldovans raced to the border in their own vehicles when the war began, finding refugees as they crossed on foot with only what they could carry. “I saw people helping with their own means long before the big NGOs started,” Socot said.
Later the ministry became more organized with about 10 regular drivers from area churches. At the border, Socot said one of his challenges is preventing commercial drivers from unfairly persuading refugees that they couldn’t trust the Christian transportation group and should instead pay for a ride. He would make sure they knew the service, like God’s grace, was offered free.
“I would fight off the commercial guys who would tell lies like ‘they will take you to their church and lock you up,’ or ‘make you hear their gospel,’” Socot said.
Another participant in the transportation ministry, Nicolei Eugin, said the streams of refugees started on Feb. 24 and on that first day Christians were already bringing food to them.
“People from local churches were using their personal transportation bringing them to their homes and churches,”
Eugin said, explaining that it was about 1½ months before the large UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) camp at Palanca featuring tents, NGO offices and buses was up and running. The response was not limited to evangelical Christians, but Nikolai Voiteac, another driver, said it has provided these believers with an opportunity to glorify God.
“Many have started looking at Christians and Baptists differently. They thought we were a sect, but when they saw how we helped it changed their mind and many have started coming to church,” he said.
⇒ Belgorad-Dnistrovsky, Ukraine: On June 1, the full Kingdom Bridges team continued on to First Belgorad-Dnistrovsky Church. Led by young pastor Valentine, this church officially opened with a service of dedication on Feb. 20. Four days later Russia launched the brutal invasion. War had not directly affected the city, but its impact was all around—sirens blare in the morning and evening warning of missiles launched from the Black Sea into other parts of Ukraine. A bridge connecting the city to Odessa had been destroyed by Russian air strikes. Refugees returning home faced economic challenges and difficulty in finding food and medical care.
On a tour of the church, Valentine and church secretary Lilly showed rooms one by one that had been repurposed—a youth room now a clothes closet, a nursery now a storage room for food, the sanctuary now a place where thousands warmed up or cooled off while hearing the good news of hope in Jesus and receiving prayer for their families and nation. The church soon began efficiently and compassionately offering food, clothing and other help.
On June 2 church members and the Kingdom Bridges team distributed 1,500 bags of staple food—the most up to that point. Early in the morning, hundreds lined up outside the church property. As the heat became oppressive, believers handed out water on the street. Inside, teddy bears made by ladies of Jubilee Shores United Methodist Church, were given to children with the message “Бог Любит Тебе”—God loves you. Older visitors received crosses hand embroidered by Kathy Robinson of Robertsdale First Baptist, whose late husband, Larry, had been to Moldova on mission. Pain medicine, vitamins and shower kits from Dr. George Astin through Blessings International were also distributed. Hundreds also registered to see the Coadas and Dr. Daigle in a medical clinic. Ukrainian believers are faced with the difficult dilemma of whether to leave, if possible, or stay. Valentin shared how he was struggling with that decision until God led him to the story of Gideon in Judges 6.
He said the example of this reluctant leader helped inspire him to stay and lead his church in this spiritual battle.
“The angel greeted him and said, ‘God is with you mighty warrior,’ before he had done anything at all,” he shared.
Kingdom Bridges supporters helped the church purchase a van for transporting people and supplies, and find new sources of food for the distribution. Valentine’s appeal for help continuing the food ministry can be viewed here.
Nehemiah writes that those rebuilding war-ravaged Jerusalem did so with one hand, while holding a sword in the other. Likewise, followers of Jesus Christ in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine are fighting evil with “weapons” of compassion and truth. They are showing God’s love in tangible ways while sharing how Christ conquered the sin that is the source of all the world’s problems, including war. In this poor region of Europe, Christians have given out of their scarcity to faithfully obey the words of Christ. We in the Western church can help them from our plenty to continue doing so. Please help this “beautiful” ministry by giving through Kingdom Bridges.