Pay it Forward

Reaching the ‘Least of These’ in Ukraine

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Loren Kennedy

I recently returned from my fifth trip to the front lines in Eastern Ukraine. I have spent nine months of the 18-month war, on the ground serving and helping people who have lost their homes and sources of income through this brutal war, which began February 2022.

It’s not about politics; it’s about people. Regular citizens, who are truly hurting and suffering through no fault of their own, have found themselves in the middle of vicious battles. This war has already exceeded an estimated 500,000 lives lost in the first 18 months.

However, thanks to the residents of Western North Carolina, Sanctuary Relief has been able to feed over 30,000 families with food boxes. Food, propane heaters, blankets, clothes for refugees, shoes for children, and personal hygiene items make up the list of items distributed to individuals and families along the front lines in Eastern Ukraine.

Sanctuary Relief also bring Ukrainians hope! We share the love of God and the hope that there is in knowing our God, through Jesus.

As I travel around the eastern part of Ukraine, in cities and towns that were under occupation, my heart is touched by the children who are living their lives, as normal as possible, in the middle of the terror and chaos. I look into these children’s eyes and I see my own six children and 11 grandchildren. I see my kids playing in the yard, climbing trees, building forts, and making memories through school and church events. The difference in the reality of growing up in Eastern Ukraine for these children is that they play on tanks, armored vehicles, and other military equipment soldiers have died in.

My heart is always touched by their smiles and laughing in the middle of the pain and sorrow. Besides the food, and other necessities that we bring to them, we spend time with children by sharing hope and love through books, Bibles, candy, and our words. I believe it matters. I believe it’s a bright spot in a dark world.

I’m going on my sixth trip to Ukraine at the end of December. So far, we have worked in more than 100 cities and villages. I have a lofty goal of reaching 10,000 families on this next trip. I will be there for at least two months.

SANCTUARY RELIEF has been able to feed more than 30,000 Ukrainian families with food boxes, as well as provide propane heaters, blankets, clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene items.

You can help by praying and by giving financially to buy food boxes and other supplies. We use the food boxes as a bridge. I called it the Bridge of Hope. It’s a bridge that allows us to share with large crowds of people God’s love, mercy, and grace.

The Bible says that pure religion is helping widows and orphans in their time of need, and whenever we give even a cup of cold water to one of the “least of these,” it is like we are doing it unto Jesus. (Matthew 25:40-45)

I personally supervise buying and assembling these boxes in Ukraine. We can put two weeks’ worth of food together for about $7 per box. Sanctuary Relief is a part of The Sanctuary Ministry Center, a North Carolina nonprofit corporation. You can give through the website,, or mail checks to P.O. Box 841, Franklin, N.C. 28744. You can follow us on Facebook, under both my personal name and Sanctuary Relief. We also have a YouTube channel that covers reports and messages live from Ukraine.

Sanctuary Relief uses 100% of the funds donated to directly help people in Ukraine. We are all volunteers and I cover my own travel expenses.

Loren Kennedy is the founder of Sanctuary Relief, a charitable organization helping the needy in Africa and Ukraine.