Serving Ukrainian Refugees in Hartsville
Deborah and Frank Guest were among the first SCBaptists to answer the call to serve Ukrainian refugees with SendRelief on the Romanian border.
Deborah, Director of Missions, Ladies, & Preschool at Lakeview Baptist Church in Hartsville, SC, and Frank, a history teacher, shared a passion for serving others. “God placed a desire long ago for us to go to other areas of the world to help others learn about Him,” Deborah said.
Serving on the Front Lines
Having previously participated in Disaster Relief efforts and mission trips to Romania, their connections and experiences made them eager to join the first SCBaptist team to serve with Send Relief in Romania on the Ukrainian border. There, they witnessed firsthand the struggles faced by those fleeing the war in Ukraine. “The hardest ones for me to see fleeing Ukraine were the elderly and the children,” Deborah said.
Some elderly residents, having lived their entire lives in Ukraine, were hesitant to leave their homes. At the border, the couple also encountered groups of unaccompanied children seeking refuge. These encounters illuminated the heartbreaking reality that these individuals were not merely seeking a better life but rather fighting for survival.
As a history teacher, Frank possessed a comprehensive understanding of the geopolitical aspects of the war in Ukraine. However, the refugee crisis that unfolded gave him firsthand insight into the experiences of refugees. “God was able to show me that the littlest act of kindness was greatly appreciated,” he said. Frank later shared these experiences with his students, broadening their understanding of the refugee crisis.
Witnessing the struggles of those fleeing the war in Ukraine, they returned to Lakeview Baptist Church in Hartsville, SC, determined to help. With the assistance of a community outreach program, Carolinas for Ukraine, the Lakeview Mission Ministry, and the SCBaptist Convention, three homes were provided for Ukrainian families who had resettled in the Hartsville area. The Guests’ commitment extended beyond short-term trips as they built lasting friendships and shared their faith with the refugees.
The outpouring of support from their church and the Hartsville community exceeded the Guest’s expectations. People donated, fundraised, assisted with renovations, and contributed personal touches to the houses. Upon the arrival of the Ukrainian families, they were warmly welcomed, and lasting friendships were formed. One family became actively involved in the church’s youth program, while others attended special events.
Living on Mission
For Deborah and Frank, missions were not confined to short-term trips; they were committed to building lasting relationships locally, as well. “Mission trips are fabulous, but sometimes we can return and think we are done,” Deborah said. Recognizing the long-term nature of their involvement, the Guests understood that impact would take time. Their goal was to walk alongside the refugees, offering friendship, meeting their needs, and engaging in Gospel conversations.
Supporting the Ukrainian refugees residing in Hartsville requires daily dedication, friendship, and a readiness to share the love of God with those they encounter. The Guests exemplify the profound impact that individuals can make when they extend their hearts and hands to those in need. Through their compassion and faith, they have demonstrated that missions extend far beyond geographical boundaries and have the potential to create a lasting impact on individuals, communities, and the world at large.