Fred Provencher, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, travelled from the suburbs of New Jersey to war-torn Ukraine to deliver vital equipment to a medical missions organization last fall. On the trip, he also delivered an encouraging message of Christian unity as the guest preacher at a small Pentecostal church that meets in a warehouse. Despite the intimidating air-raid sirens in the region, the congregation worshipped with songs like “Trading My Sorrows (Yes Lord).”
“The people in America wanted to help in any way that they could,” Pastor Provencher told the Ukrainian people through an interpreter. “My church is a different denomination than yours, but we sing the same songs. We are one church. God does not see many churches.”
The effort to help in Ukraine began in the spring of 2022 when the elders at Cornerstone moved to dedicate the church’s Easter offering towards the purchase of medical supplies and ultrasound equipment. The supplies would be shipped to Poland and then driven to Ukraine to health care workers on the ground in the combat zone.
The people at Cornerstone saw the need and responded. The Easter offering totaled an astounding $259,000. At its Sunday services on February 26, Cornerstone debuted the 37-minute documentary “Part of Ukraine,” which details its pastor’s trip to Poland and Ukraine.
The church became aware of the need in Ukraine when Dan Dunn, a missionary with Foursquare Missions International who worked at Cornerstone in the 1980s, sent an email to long-time congregant Sally Teschon, who passed it on to Elder Board member Don Waters. Through a series of providential circumstances and relationships, Cornerstone was able to purchase and deliver the supplies with the help of Convoy of Hope, Arsenal Capital Partners, Accumen, Grace Redeemer Church, and UPS Healthcare, which delivered all shipments overseas at no charge via air freight.
“This is not something we could have orchestrated,” Waters said.
Dunn, in an email to Waters, said, “This is such a God moment…. This is so exceedingly abundantly beyond what we ask, think, or imagine! (Eph. 3:20-21). The people here are rejoicing and praising God!”
Locally, Grace Redeemer Church in Glen Rock offered storage space before the supplies were shipped. While the pallets of medical supplies were going to be sent via UPS, the leadership of Cornerstone determined that it would be better if the ultrasound machine was hand delivered to Poland. Waters explained that sending Pastor Fred would also give the congregation a first-hand account of how their offering was impacting the people of Ukraine.
In November, Pastor Provencher set out to deliver the equipment to Poland, along with Mike Marrero, a filmmaker and creative director at Emergence Church, who carried the other half of the ultrasound unit in a suitcase and filmed the entire trip. In Poland, they met with Dunn, local church leaders, and Dr. Nancy Wespetal, of Hope In Action in The Ukraine.
Wespetal, a native of Oklahoma, expressed joyful thanks when she saw the new ultrasound machine. In the documentary, Provencher called her the embodiment of an incarnational life. “She is a person who has chosen, in the name of Jesus, to deeply imbed herself in the Ukrainian culture,” he said.
While the original plan was for Provencher and Marrero to deliver the ultrasound to Poland and return home, they went the extra mile into Ukraine when that opportunity became available. That second leg of the journey included a tense moment at a border crossing and the blaring sounds of air-raid sirens in Lviv.
In Lviv, they met pastors of the House of Salvation Church, which had served as a sanctuary for thousands of Ukrainians who were forced to flee from their homes during the war.
“Seven million Ukrainians have been displaced by this war…many of them will never come back,” Provencher said in “Part of Ukraine.”
At a Sunday morning service, Pastor Provencher was asked to preach. He read from Ephesians 4: “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is One body. One spirit. One Baptism. One God and Father of all…”
“I live far away from you, but we are one,” he said. “And when your church has a need, and we can help, God says, we are one church. In taking the collection and buying the medical supplies for Christian workers in Ukraine, we are just doing our small part.”
At Cornerstone Church, which gives monthly support to local, national, and international missions organizations, it is a long-time tradition to take the offerings from Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and give the entire offering to designated missions organizations. The offering for medical supplies to Ukraine was the largest offering ever collected at the church.
Pastor Provencher is hopeful that the documentary will not only tell the story of how a local church made an impact in Ukraine, but will also inspire viewers to understand their place and role in the Kingdom of God.
“The Easter offering at Cornerstone did something really unique,” said Provencher.
“When people get together and say, ‘How can I help?’ ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? It opens up all sorts of doors and you find yourself in life-changing situations,” he said. “I hope they see what’s possible when we take our eyes off ourselves and want to be a part of what God is doing in the world.”
“A Part of Ukraine” can be viewed below. To make a donation towards humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, please give to Convoy of Hope.
–Tom Campisi | Tri-State Voice