CVIA Blog/ General

‘Incredible needs’—Race for Ukraine is Thursday in Culpeper

The Culpeper community will come together in a Race for Ukraine 5–8 p.m. Thursday in Yowell Meadow Park.

The benefit 5K and 1-mile walk, sponsored by the Main Street office of Central VA Insurance Agency, will raise funds for Ukrainian regional pastor Vasiliy Gustalo, who’s providing direct aid on the ground through a network of churches and the European Baptist Federation.

Both networks are working to provide food, water, shelter, medicine, fuel and transportation to those in Ukraine, as well as millions of refugees.

“We have some incredible needs right now due to the war,” stated Gustalo on YouTube on Monday. “Your generosity helps to address these needs and provides hope to all the people.”

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion nearly two months ago, Culpeper Baptist Church has partnered with Highland Fellowship Church, of Abingdon, to support the Ukrainian pastor through donations from parishioners.

The Culpeper church alone had raised nearly $18,000 as of April 11. The Baptist groups have helped provide some 52,000 beds in 600 Ukrainian churches, along with 12 shelters in neighboring countries for those fleeing the conflict, according to a Culpeper Baptist Church update.

“In addition to a safe place to sleep, our brothers and sisters in Christ are providing hot meals, fresh water, warm showers, listening ears, and caring hearts as refugees find shelter in churches, schools, seminaries, shopping centers, and individual homes,” the church states.

Local funds have been combined with more than $6 million given by more than 30 other Baptist Unions and Conventions across the globe, according to the church.

Highlands Fellowship Executive Pastor Jim Fleming said Monday that Gustalo first visited his church several years ago and was identified among key pastors in which their church wanted to invest.

“He’s an incredible, humble guy,” Fleming said of the Ukrainian pastor who runs a Bible Study Fellowship program in his country.

With the invasion in Ukraine, Gustalo became “a vocal point for us to have boots on the ground,” Fleming said.

The Ukrainian pastor lives on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Russian shelling has again intensified in recent days. He had left a few weeks earlier with his family to stay with his parents on the country’s west side, Fleming said, noting the two speak daily.

“They returned home three days ago and now they are getting a lot of shots again from the Russians,” the Highlands pastor said. “So it’s a little iffy. … He’s glad to be home. At the same time, there is some renewed fighting in the area where lives,” outside of the capital city.

Fleming said his congregation is good friends with Culpeper Baptist pastor Dan Carlton. He recalled various programs, including establishing church campuses in Pakistan, on which the two congregations had previously collaborated.

“It’s just an incredible blessing to be partnered with people like that,” Fleming said. “This is just where we all come together to fulfill what God has called us to do.”

Thousands are homeless and millions have left their homes, Gustalo said in Monday’s video. The Christian church in Ukraine has been very active serving refugees, the needy, sick and all those affected by the war, he said. Donations from Virginia have greatly helped, he added.

“We are very grateful for your open heart to Ukraine,” Gustalo said. “We believe that God will help us to pass this struggle and give us victory. But today there is still a brutal war.”

The Ukrainian pastor asked for prayers for ceasefire, and for people without food, water and heat, for refugees and wisdom in serving them and protection for the Ukraine government, president and army.

“Pray for the protection of our homes and church buildings. Pray that the war will end soon because every day is a great loss,” the pastor said.

Billy Frederick with Central Virginia Insurance Agency in Culpeper helped organize this week’s Race for Ukraine in partnership with Culpeper Baptist, of which his co-worker is a member. In a phone call last week, Frederick said the event came about rather quickly because of the immediate need in the country.

“We were going to put it off until May or June, but what if some other world disaster comes up by then and we lose focus on Ukraine?” he said. “They need this money yesterday.”

Local response in support of the race has been immense, Frederick said.Carlton said his church often responds to humanitarian crises in the U.S. and around the world.

“I think the response has been so great with Ukraine because we see their great courage and hopefulness,” he said.

Frederick said he was inspired to organize the Race for Ukraine after his girlfriend’s daughter came home one day with a link to a virtual 5K to support the war-torn country.

“It was a good idea, but it wasn’t enough,” he said. “Why don’t we just do something locally and get local people and businesses behind it? Because everybody feels pretty strongly about it,” Frederick said. “We were right because the response has been tremendous.”

The Race for Ukraine will feature a no-push skateboard race and 40-yard dash competition. There will be a moon bounce, food and face painting.

Registration is $20 for the 5K or one-mile walk, $5 for the skateboard and 40-yard dash races or $30 to participate in all the races. Sponsorships for $250 are also available.