Sunday July 3rd, 2022 8:45PM

Chaplains in Ukraine look to Forsyth County Chaplains for support

By Kimberly Sizemore Anchor/Reporter
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The war in Ukraine has grabbed the attention of the whole world, as the media shows horrific images of homes destroyed, maternity wards bombed, and people fleeing to safety. Our hearts go out to them, but few people know how to help or what to do. Two chaplains in Forsyth County not only have a plan to help, but unknowingly, they helped long before the war even began.

Meet Pastor Aleks Gerasimov and Pastor Ron Nelson. Both men are chaplains with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO). They are on call to assist those with mental, emotional and spiritual needs in Forsyth County. Chaplains willingly volunteer to be on the scene of someone in a crisis, and there are a whole lot of people in crisis in Eastern Europe, and that’s where this story begins.

In 2020, Pastor Aleks, who is from Ukraine, signed up to be a chaplain with FCSO. He is the pastor of a Russian Ukrainian church in Cumming. That’s when he and Pastor Ron connected. Ron is certified to teach and train chaplains through an international organization. Through Ron’s training expertise and Aleks’ connections, both men had the opportunity to go to Ukraine and train 57 chaplains in the ministry.

The trip included the chaplain ministry, of course, but they also were able to connect with law enforcement there. This began a collaboration between Ukrainian officials and the FCSO. After that trip, high-ranking law enforcement officials traveled to Forsyth County to work with the Sheriff’s Office, and a collaboration was built between the two groups.

Now those same officials, and those same chaplains, have found themselves in the middle of a devastating war. Pastor Aleks says it is not a coincidence that they were able to provide crucial crisis training ahead of this war. He calls it “divine.” “It was exactly the right moment for us to go there and put together this phenomenal team of 57 pastors,” says Pastor Aleks. He says that the training included topics such as stress management and how to handle a critical situation. “By God’s provision, we equipped those pastors to be ready for an uneasy situation, like what is happening now. I believe it was a divine appointment.”

He says those chaplains are the ones working with outside ministries, such as Samaritan’s Purse from the U.S., and distributing aid. “They also do what chaplains do. They pray with others, they try to bring peace to agencies in multiple areas of Ukraine… they are doing what is required of chaplains to do during a crisis. It was God that put together a phenomenal team. Through Ron, who brought excellent training material, they were equipped for stresses that… for us are so hard to imagine.”

All 57 of those chaplains in Ukraine have decided to stay and assist their communities. He says many of them have helped their children, wives and elderly parents to escape the war, but they are staying in Ukraine to lead the efforts.

Pastor Ron says they are true heroes. “Those chaplains over there are so heroic and brave and filled with faith. They are the boots on the ground. One of the leaders, Pablo and some others, got their hands on a bulletproof vehicle, and they were just evacuating families in and out that were under siege. So they are men and women of great faith, but also just great servants, literally putting their lives on the line. It's an incredible testimony of God's love being shown to these men and women who are not just praying and supporting and, you know, hugging and holding people when they're crying, but they're literally getting their hands dirty and putting their life in danger to save other people. It's an inspiring story amidst all the heartache.”

Pastor Aleks agrees that “hero” is a good word for those men and women who are choosing to stay in the war to help serve. “It’s so very practical, nothing about just a theoretical chaplaincy. It's very hands-on. They take supplies to the most vulnerable people. It’s day in, day out. And day in day out, they put their life in jeopardy, but they are rescuing, they are providing, and it’s really just uplifting for me. It's really like, wow, heroic, heroic ministry.”

When news of the war first hit, Pastor Aleks said many of his church members were in shock. They were trying to find out news from home and trying to get information from other church members. He says that once the shock was over, they began to mobilize their efforts.

They began to ask the question, “How can we help?” Pastor Aleks answers that question for all of us. “So first of all, we can just pray about this. I think that's very important. We don't have to underestimate the power of God. Yes, we will help financially. But we need to keep these men or women in our prayers, in our churches, praying about them for God's protection, for God's provision, for them to have peace in their hearts. That’s number one.”

The second need he says is a very critical one. “Champions in Ukraine as they are volunteers like we are, except that we are well equipped in the United States. As a chaplain for Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, I was given personal protection, clothing, and what not,” says Pastor Aleks. “In Ukraine, it's a different story. These 57 men and women don't have body armor. So we are trying to collect 57 ballistic vests, and give them some kind of protection. They need ballistic vests and ballistic helmets to protect them because they are in a war zone. That's the second most critical thing that I see.”

A fundraising page has been started for anyone who wishes to donate to the cause. The money will go to help provide that necessary equipment.


  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, chaplains, Ukraine, mission, support
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