By Michael Lester
Thoughts and prayers is a cliche we use when facing the overwhelming challenges of human suffering, injustice, and need. We offer our thoughts and prayers.
Sometimes, however, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. When the Ukraine was attacked, we watched the news in horror as communities were destroyed, innocent people were injured and killed, and thousands sought refuge. Jonesborough United Methodist Church in Jonesborough, Tennnesee, opened her doors for prayer, rang the church bell, and then sought a way to help those who were displaced.
A couple from the church, Kelly and Jennifer Wolfe, stepped forward to sponsor a Ukrainian family, the Prigodas, in relocating to Jonesborough. Wolfe, a local real estate developer, is providing a house for the family. Other items such as furniture, clothing, bed linens and towels, toiletries, a suitable car, and all the things a family will need seem overwhelming.
Jonesborough UMC’s pastor, Rev. Michael Lester, challenged the church and other local churches to work together to help this family start a new life in America. Donations are being sought to meet the needs. Gift cards for the family, in any amount, from Walmart, Ingles, and Food City can be given.
The Prigodas, with help from the Wolfes, tackled the difficult details of navigating the immigration paperwork, communicating across language barriers, and arranging flights to America. Rev. Lester reminded the congregation, “Helping a family relocate to a new community means more than providing essential things. It also means walking beside them, befriending them, helping them learn a new language, navigating the education and health care systems, and lovingly caring for them during all the days ahead. This is our calling from Christ.”
The Prigodas are a family of seven: Sergey and Ivanna (parents), adopted nephews Stas (age 17) and Andriy (age 13), son, Valeriy (age 14), and twins Mark and Emma (age 3). They will be arriving on August 3. Another Ukrainian family has been in the Jonesborough area for six years. They knew the Prigodas and attended church with them when they lived in the Ukraine. They will be able to serve as translators and help them become acclimated to their new community.
After the invasion, their hometown of Kherson was one of the first cities to fall. The Prigodas persevered through the first month of the Russian occupation but eventually had to abandon their home within an hour’s notice. The Prigodas were unable to take anything with them when they fled.
Sergey works in construction and contacts here will help him find a job. Ivanna stays at home with the twins. Stas has completed high school and is studying online to further his education. Andriy will be in 8th grade and Valeriy will be a high school freshman.
Jonesborough UMC is celebrating their Bicentennial this year. A special service is planned for Sunday, September 18, at 10 a.m. The church, founded in 1822, has a history of expressing their faith by serving others in Jesus’ name. The theme for their Bicentennial is “Bringing the Light." Jonesborough UMC continues to bring Christ’s light as they welcome the Prigodas to their new home.
Donations to help the Prigoda family can be sent to Jonesborough United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 115, Jonesborough, TN 37659.
The Rev. Michael Lester is pastor at Jonesbourgh United Methodist Church.