Hope and Daniel watch as Aleksa cooks Ukrainian Borsch. Image credit: Aleksa Aishpur
When Hope Rust and her fiancé Daniel Gretsch learned through their congregation, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Cary, that host families were needed for Ukrainian refugees, they chose to act. “We don’t have much room to offer other than one bedroom for one person,” Hope confessed. “Most people think that they need to do something big in order to produce change, but I think it’s the normal people doing one thing at a time that can help make the world a better place.” Hope and Daniel have been hosting Aleksa Aishpur since January. While it was scary for them—and Aleksa—since they didn’t know each other before she moved across the world to live with them, Hope says, “We both trusted God and took a leap of faith. Also, Aleksa is a young person like us and we believed she would be happy starting the next chapter of her life here.”
Hope and Daniel are not strangers to living in other countries. Hope served as an ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission in Australia and Daniel lived in Germany through a different study abroad program. In particular, Hope remembers the connections she had with three women—Barb, Suanne, and Sue—who taught her so much about Aboriginal culture; they became best friends. “Part of my commitment to hosting Aleksa is honoring the people who gave so much to me during my year in the outback,” Hope attests. “It shows that we are all connected here, from Australia to the U.S., and to the Ukraine. We can be a light to others.”
Hear from Aleksa as she shares her harrowing and hopeful story:
Hi, my name is Aleksa Aishpur. I ran from the war in Ukraine and I came to the USA (in January) thanks to the help of Hope and Daniel, my sponsoring host family. It was not an easy decision, as my parents ran to Romania and my sister and nephews are in Italy.
When the war started, I fled on the first day. In 28 hours, we drove 8 hours from Kyiv to Chernivtsi (a city near the border), because there were so many cars on the road that we could not move faster. There was a lot of fear, we didn’t know if any missiles would come at any moment. With some of my friends in Chernivtsi we waited 3 days and went to Italy by bus. We thought that there might be a nuclear intervention in Ukraine, so we decided to move away from the country.
That whole week had passed in fear, prayers, internal battles, and hopes. I didn’t sleep much, because I was online all the time, we helped each other throughout Ukraine with information on where and who people can be evacuated to, with friends and my sister, who, with 2 teenage children, was stuck in her house near Kiev, because there the village was blocked. She could not run because 2 bridges were destroyed and tanks were driving along one side of the road. It was a miracle that after 2 weeks she was able to escape and come to me in Italy with my nephews. It was the sweetest hug in our lives when we saw each other after all these crazy events.
In Italy one charity organization in Bergamo city helped us. And when I relaxed little bit and start to sleep well I decided to go to Romania to volunteer in a charity organization and help Ukrainians.
My sister and my friends stayed in Italy. I flew to Romania. With one bag with documents and clothes. We rented a house for refugees located in the city Cluj-Napoca, 3 hours from the border with Ukraine. The next day at 4 o’clock in the morning a 9-floor house near my mom’s house in Kyiv was bombed. That’s why my parents ran to me in Romania and stayed in the house that we rented. For 9 months we lived in one town. We helped Ukrainian widows with food, wood for warmth, and repairing houses after being destroyed by missiles. I worked with a psychologist all this time and helped myself with God to accept this reality of new life.
Now I’m here in the USA. I believe that God called me here. I’m on my way to see His Glory and His restoring, unending love. Before I flew here my sister came to Romania and I hugged all my family.”
Hope concludes, “Aleksa is not just a Ukrainian refugee, she has a lot to give here in the United States. She is working on building a community here and is looking for a job in the Raleigh/Durham area. She loves to meet new people and cook Ukrainian foods for us, which we love. Please join us in welcoming Aleksa to the U.S.!
If you are willing and able to help support Aleksa as she is beginning to get settled, that would be much appreciated. She regularly attends Christ the King (CTK), Cary with Hope and Daniel. Please contact CTK for information about giving.
Would your congregation like to engage in this work of welcome by hosting a Ukranian or Afghani refugee family? Learn more about the many ways your congregation can participate in the Bishop’s Challenge by visiting the synod website. Contact synod staff person, Michael Dickson, with questions.