Vicki Nelson first went to Ukraine in 1998 for a summer mission project. There, she discovered she had heart disease — that is, a caring heart disease.
She and her husband Richard, a retired dentist, ended up serving for five years as missionaries in Ukraine where they provided humanitarian services and staffed a dental van to provide oral care for orphaned children.
I've cried many tears already. I left my heart in Ukraine the first time I went over — and it's still there.
"It's hard to keep watching [the news]," said Richard Nelson. "We have friends who still live in Ukraine. The stores we shopped at are obliterated. We couldn't go over there to help, so we're raising money and sending it over for humanitarian aid."
The Nelsons had just shared their missionary story in January with their North Hill Adventist Fellowship church family in Edgewood, Washington. For 20 years, they've hosted annual coat drives and other fundraisers with their Cle Elum Church family to support ministry in Ukraine.
When war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, the North Hill church quickly developed an idea and set plans in motion for a community fundraiser.
"It's like God had this ready and everyone jumped on board to help," Vicki said. "This church has a caring heart."
The fundraiser offered multiple ways to contribute through a bake sale, silent auction, craft sale, food sales and a text-to-give campaign. They also held a benefit concert provided by nearby Adventist churches, Grace Ukrainian Church in Renton and Steps to God Church, a Russian-Ukrainian church in Federal Way.
"This fundraiser was appealing to me because my father was born in Ukraine," explained Barbara Riske, a North Hill member instrumental in planning the Ukrainian fundraiser. Her father, now 88, contributed many handcrafted wooden toys.
The fundraising team was amazed at the supportive responses from neighboring Russian-Ukrainian churches, individual donors, neighbors who drove by and Adventist neighbors who attend South Puget Sound churches.
"We're really pleased that 100% of these funds will go directly to [humanitarian mission work in Ukraine] to help them with their needs," Riske said.
A steady stream of guests came throughout the May 1, 2022 Sunday afternoon fundraiser. The event raised close to $15,000.
"It's all been God's project all along," said Vicki. "God even sent a rainbow [the day before the fundraiser]. It was as if God was hugging us."
Donated funds are being directed through Adventist Missions. It's giving frontline humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian Adventist churches providing housing, food and transportation to the border for refugees.