Imagine another nation invaded your home state while you lived and worked in Ukraine.
You’d likely do any and everything you could to help your loved ones in a combat zone back home.
Nataliya Rezek, a registered nurse at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital Urgent Care, was born and grew up in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, a city about the size of Sioux Falls in the country’s southwest. Since the war began, she’s made efforts to raise money and send life-saving materials to those in need.
While Dow Warner, Ph.D., a chaplain at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital, is a South Dakota native, he’s been a missionary much of his life and has friends and loved ones in Ukraine. In March 2022, he traveled to both Ukraine and the Czech Republic, helping fleeing people find refuge.
As a health ministry rooted in the gospel, Avera encourages employees to show compassion not only to patients but to their communities. Warner and Rezek are just two examples of how Avera employees are making a difference.
Rezek is trilingual — she speaks English, Russian and Ukrainian — and is a health professional. So she set upon a mission to get life-saving supplies to those who need them in the face of war.
“We can get toys for children later,” Rezek said. “Now we need medicine, bandages and combat tourniquets.”
She began with a social media post, which led to the wide-ranging medical support. Her employer, as well as strangers, continue to contribute to her work, sending medical supplies Ukrainians need. Since she began, she’s mailed more than $25,000 worth of material to Chernivtsi.
“My father is still in our hometown. My brother, too,” she said. “I would like to return, but I feel I can do more in this way. I’m just trying to do my part.”
In the past, Warner worked in missions both in Ukraine and the Czech Republic, a nearby nation where many Ukrainians have fled to avoid the invasion. He said his guiding Scripture verse is Isaiah 6:8.
“It says, in part, ‘Here I am; send me’ and it’s shaped my life,” Warner said. “This war is quite real for me. I’ve lived there. I have loved ones there — so I went to where I had worked, to try to help.”
Warner’s month in the region included many trips to borders where he helped transport refugees to safer cities. He sought locations for families to live, and those who had room to house people in need.
“God directed me to go, and I want to go back,” he said.
He said God’s plan included a willingness to listen to the many stories — of families hiding for weeks in basements, of husbands telling their wives and children they must leave.
“People would push their families into trains as they sobbed and said goodbye,” Warner said. “Each person had one … every person’s story was powerful.”
You can help, too, by supporting Ukraine relief organizations.